Friday, July 31, 2015

Summer Summary: Part 4

Anna June got used to camp at the UAB Rec Center, although she is excited to be going back to school next week.

Week 9: Time Travel Week

This was a fun week, as each day brought the kids to a different decade. The children were supposed to dress appropriately for a costume contest each day, but there was such limited participation that they decided not to do it.

With trips to the thrift store and Dollar Tree, AJ and I planned her outfits for the week.

Monday: 1950s day

Over the weekend, when we went to the thrift store, there were so many other things we needed to do, and it was so hot, we pretty much just browsed and then grabbed stuff. We didn't try it on.

I really liked the shape of this skirt for the '50s, so we got it. I should have realized it was a size 8 in women's instead of a size 8 in kids (it was really small - easy to see how the employees would keep it with the kids. It was huge on AJ, so we ran and got her school belt. She pointed out that pictures she had seen in our research included belts, so she was fine. The sunglasses came from the dollar store. The shoes, socks, and scarf were hers already, and the shirt was from her school uniform stash. A high ponytail completed the look.

At camp, they had a little sock hop, where she was partnered with a boy (whose name she still doesn't know). They learned a box step and she had to tell the boy each step: front, side, back when she was going back, side, front.

The crafts were plates made to look as records and a coloring page of a cowboy.

Tuesday: 1960s day

For this look, we didn't have to have anything new. AJ has had the tie-dye since Pre-K. We also had the vest, beads, headband, and bell bottom jeans. We were sort of stumped when it came to shoes, though. We pretty much thought hippies went barefoot but that would be frowned upon at camp, so we came up with her black boots to give it a neutral appearance. Her long flowing hair added to the look.

At craft time, they made friendship bracelets. They also colored this decade-appropriate page.

Wednesday: 1970s day

The halter top was a thrift store find. The jeans and boots with turquoise detail were hers. (Thanks Granny!) I flat-ironed her hair, but it was so humid out, that did not last long.

For craft time, the kids painted pet rocks.

Thursday: 1980s day

The top was a thrift store deal that I also wish we had tried on before leaving. But the bracelets and the rest of her outfit were all things she had on hand. She also had some blue eye shadow, which I applied but it hard to see in the picture. The side ponytail seemed very '80s to me. This was AJ's favorite outfit of the bunch, and our least favorite. (My favorite was the 60's, because everything fit!)

At craft time, she colored a Mario Brothers coloring page.

Friday: The Future

Neither AJ nor I can predict how people will dress in the future. But we decided to take a look at it a little differently. Whether it is her immediate future (as in September) or her future far off, like in this commercial, she has baseball in her future! I wouldn't let her wear cleats to the gym, though.

Last day of camp for the summer! Hooray!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Play Ball

During Mini Blazer Week at camp, Anna June made this baseball craft.

We didn't need camp to get us to think about baseball, though.

Ben and AJ watch the Milwaukee Brewers nearly every night, when we are home and it is on. Sometimes we listen to games in the car. Sometimes Ben listens wherever he is.

In fact, Ben has been pursuing trade rumors for weeks, and I will be glad at the end of the day tomorrow, when all trades are done.

We're pretty in to baseball.

Anna June went on Sunday to the first in a series of "sandlot" style baseball games at Avondale Park. The folks that run Southside Ball wanted to give kids an opportunity to play together without coaches or umpires - just for fun. They had about 10 kids on Sunday, even in the oppressive heat at 5:00 PM. The kids rotated positions and took turns batting. The adults did supervise and make suggestions, and they pitched to the kids, since most were AJ's size and not ready for that particular skill.

She had a good time and is looking forward to going back.

She will be playing "Fall Ball" from September to November. We will give details to those interested when we get her schedule. She *may* be going to other ballparks to play if there are not enough players to form a league for her age group. We will see.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer Summary Part 3:

Anna June's summer has been going very well, overall.

Last week, she attended another week of UAB Rec Camp.

Week 8: Science and Discovery Week

For this week, AJ and her camp friends learned various interesting facts and did some cool projects and experiments.

They made invisible ink with lemon juice. They made slime with household ingredients and food coloring. They designed plastic bag parachutes, which included various other materials like a plastic cup, and performed an egg drop from one story (the elevated indoor track) to another (the basketball court). AJ's egg did not crack! She was very excited.

There was a visitor who brought animals from the Birmingham Zoo (again) and a visitor from McWane who made elephant toothpaste.

There was also a dead bird on campus, which freaked AJ out a little. It was one more thing to discover.

Her swimming is coming along, well, swimmingly.

I don't think I got any pictures of her that week, but here is a picture of her playing cards and watching baseball with her dad (and Radar).

It's not all educational all the time at our house! Sometimes we play, too.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Having it All Together

I should probably just go ahead and admit, after seven years, that Anna June probably doesn't qualify as a morning person.

And that's OK, because her parents aren't, either.

Actually, I do have more energy in the morning, but it's the initial getting out of bed that's an issue for me. Especially after nights when Radar wakes us up. There must be a train or some kind of truck that goes by at 2:00 AM, because he has been getting up around that time every day.

We're pretty much zombies.

We've eaten breakfast in the car so many times it has become the norm. If it weren't for BelVita breakfast cookies, we would have starved by now.

I was hoping that by this age, I would have it all together. Some days I do, and I celebrate that. But most days I don't.

This morning, I saw a lady with silver hair driving a silver Lexus with an Alabama tag pull up to the three-way-stop in our neighborhood. She was eating a banana. "Ha!" I thought. Maybe there is no chance I will ever get my act together, if this older woman is still eating breakfast in the car, too.

A few blocks later, she tossed the banana peel out of her window.

I had to wonder if it was actually litter or if she was just setting someone up to slip on it. If there are cameras planted along the Clairmont Walking Trail, then we'll know.

Meanwhile, I do have it together enough to know that while banana peels are technically biodegradable and it's not likely a person would slip on a fresh one, tossing them out of a moving car is still litter and should be avoided.

Roll Tide.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Digging in the Drafts: Cool Story, Cuz

Anna June was very surprised to learn that a little boy she was playing with at a party was her long lost cousin.

(photo courtesy Aeryn Peck)

This is true, except they weren't lost.

Aeryn and I met each other on a beach trip about nineteen years ago. We've stayed in touch off and on through our mutual friends, which is how we met to begin with. A couple of years ago, we made "friends" on facebook. We have lots in common - we're both moms, we're the same age, have lots of the same friends, and we work at UAB.

Let me back up. When my grandmother broke her leg and started staying with my parents, we had to call on help from all branches of the family tree, plus various available friends. Our dear friend Margaret, who is retired, lives close to Mom and Dad, and often stayed with Grandma on Friday afternoons in between when Mom needed to leave for the auction and when I could get there after work. They had a great time.

Recently, Margaret joined Facebook. I was feeling overwhelmed with gratitude to her and I wanted to get a little activity going on her wall for all to see. So I posted a status update thanking Margaret, as well as my aunts and uncles who have come to take care of their mom, and Grandma's cousin Deb.

Then I got a Facebook message from Aeryn that said, "How do you know Deb?"

My response was that she is my cousin.

Her response was that she was also Deb's cousin.

It took us a few days (and a few conversations with some family members) but here's how it goes:

Benjamin Hughes was born during the Civil War. He married and had children, including Ida and Alma (my great-grandmother). After his first wife (Rose Etta?) died, he remarried when he was in his late forties. After marrying Mollie, his second wife, he had more children: Agnes and Amos. Amos was Deb's father. Agnes was Lynn's mother. Lynn is Aeryn's dad.

Therefore, Aeryn's great-grandfather is the same person as my great-great-grandfather.

So, it turns out we have even more in common than we thought!

Maybe it's the Hughes genes that gave us our porcelain skin? Academic prowess? Taste for great food?

I don't know, but it sure is fun. In our family, there is always room for more.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Digging in the Drafts: A Thing We Did Last Fall

This time of year, it is so hot that the only way to cool down is to think about cooler weather.  Here is a post I wrote in mid-November. I don't know why I didn't publish it, although it does seem unfinished. Here's to dreaming of pumpkin spice everything.

Anna June starts bringing home fall-themed things as soon as school starts back, but mid-August is not Fall. In fact, now that it is mid-November, we're starting to see actual cooler temperatures and leaves at their peak. I don't know that Fall came later this year, but it was OK with me - I wasn't ready for it yet.

One Fall thing we did in October was visited the pumpkin patch with Liz, Patrick, Wesley and Beth. This year, instead of going to The Great Pumpkin Patch in Hayden (where it is strongly suspected most of the pumpkins are trucked in), we went to Old Baker Farm in Harpersville, where they actually grow things.

There was a corn maze, but Wesley quickly made his own way out.

There were no bouncy houses, but there was a trailer full of cotton, which they also grow on the farm.

There were ride-on toys, but AJ was too big for them.
There was a really, really long line for a snow cone. AJ loved it!

We came home with two pumpkins, and they did not become jack-o-lanterns.

Here's a picture from Liz.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Summer Summary: Part 2

Here's what Anna June has been up to this summer, continued.

Week 6: UAB Rec Camp -Wild N Wacky Water Week

The magic of camp had worn off for AJ by this point, which is understandable. How could one top a week of fun with one's mother like going to the dentist? Anyway, AJ had fun throwing water balloons with her camp friends and getting extra wet each and every day.

Week 7: UAB Rec Camp - Superhero Week

Although kids were encouraged to wear superhero-themed attire all week, AJ didn't really want to participate. Thursday night rolled around, and when I picked her up, the counselor reminded us of the costume contest the next day. So we started talking about what AJ could use for a costume: she has capes, tights, leotards, masks, etc. But she wanted a store-bought costume. I warned her store-bought probably wouldn't win any awards, but she argued that she could use whatever we got for Halloween. It did not take long to convince me. After dinner, we headed to Party City's costume room where she perused the super-hero section. Eventually, she decided to be Iron Man. The gracious employee got on a ladder and got down the costume, and she tried it on. Suddenly, she was Iron Man. Here she is on the costume day:

Pretty tough, huh?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Summer Summary: Part 1

Anna June has had a jam-packed summer, full of activities. If you ask her, she will say she doesn't like it, but this is some of what she has been doing.

Week 1: Vacation Bible School.

This was our third year of Vacation Bible School at Avondale United Methodist Church. It's not our home church or the church we attend, but we visit sometimes. Lots of AJ's friends from school went to VBS here. It was only from 9-12, so big thanks to Nana for taking her and dropping her off. VBS was by far one of my most favorite summer childhood activities, and I am happy AJ is getting to share that experience. They had a hot dog lunch to celebrate the end of VBS that Friday, and I took some terrible pictures. Here's one.

Week 2: Wacky Nanny Art Camp

Anna June did this last year when we were scrambling to fill dates, and she loved it. She once again did some sewing, some painting, some collage, tie-dye, and more. She enjoyed pizza day where they brought their own toppings (she chose pepperoni) and there was a water day where they splashed around outside. The camp is held in the former Comer School, which may be effected by the announced elimination of community schools. Again, a huge thanks to Nana and Granddaddy for keeping AJ the rest of the day while we worked - the camp was only 9 to 1.

Week 3: UAB Rec Camp - Outdoor Adventures

Camp got off to a bit of a rough start. I decided at the last minute that AJ would take swimming lessons, and we eventually got that ball rolling. The second day of camp, we were sent home with this note.

The next day she got another injury and was bandaged by the lady in "the band-aid department." This almost kept her from swim lessons, but it was discovered she was OK to swim.

The Birmingham Zoo made an appearance and showed off animals from the area such as a de-scented skunk and a box turtle.

Week 4: UAB Rec Camp - Mini Blazer Week

Say what you might about VBS being "indoctrination" of children, this camp took it to a whole new level. These kids learned about the ins and outs of UAB Athletics. They got to meet our mascot Blaze and walked to Bartow Arena, home of our storied basketball team. I am very proud of my alma mater, the perennial underdog. It was recently announced that due to a community financial support, we will have our football team reinstated in 2017. Our children are our future, so when these children are asked, "Roll Tide or War Eagle?" I hope that they will all proudly say, "Go Blazers!"  Seriously, though, most, if not all, of these kids have parents who work here. I hope that they catch some school spirit, because children of employees can attend here at a discounted rate. Win, win, win.

Here's AJ's coloring version of Blaze, one of the dragon-themed crafts sent home. I may keep this one in my office.

Here's a newsletter they sent home (only that one week). Evidently the "other group" got to do some things AJ's group did not get to do.

Week 5: Camp Mom
I already recapped these days, since I was in charge, but the posts are:

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Anna June, it appears, still likes to draw butterflies.

Picture this one flying through the sky!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Less Blurry Cam

There are some better pictures of Anna June's birthday party at Rusty's BBQ on our photo page for that month, located here.

Fortunately, Lily and CJ's mom was there to document the occasion. Thanks, Sylvia!

Don't ask me why AJ insisted on wearing her fashion only (no prescription) glasses.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Digging in the Drafts: Read Across America Week

In early March, Anna June's school celebrated "Read Across America Week," coinciding with Dr. Seuss' birthday.

They got to do a series of fun things. All week, they were asked to carry a book with them wherever they went.

On Monday, they brought their favorite stuffed animal to read to.

On Tuesday, they were allowed to wear silly socks. Based on an idea I had years ago when they had silly sock day, AJ made her own sock scarf.

On Wednesday, they were allowed to wear a striped shirt (but keep their uniform bottoms). I guess this is in honor of the Cat in the Hat's trademark chapeau.

On Thursday, they could wear shirts with words (but uniform bottoms). The week was interrupted by snow and ice, and the threat thereof, so this "read my shirt" day was canceled. In case you were interested, AJ was going to wear a shirt that said "Love." Maybe next year there will be better weather.

On Friday, it was Thing 1 and Thing 2 Day - the kids were allowed to dress alike in pairs of "twins." AJ and Dorothy plotted together to be twins. They even talked on the phone to coordinate outfits.

Then, Trey decided to be a triplet with them. At some point, I chimed in that they probably all still had their tie-dyed shirts from Pre-K, so they ended up wearing them, with the (again) mandated uniform bottoms. There was a picture somewhere, but I can't find it now.

Just know that she had fun participating and she does love to read!

Monday, July 20, 2015

One Fun Thing: Alabama Splash Adventure

On Saturday, July 11, Anna June's fun thing was a big one - we went to the water park! Alabama Splash Adventure, formerly Alabama Adventure, formerly Visionland, has been on our wish list since it opened around Memorial Day, but we just had not made it there.

Of course, we waited until it was so super hot that it was almost no fun. But the water did feel good.

I got the trip off to a bad start. That morning, I decided to run an errand for the school - a team of volunteers from Church of the Highlands had chosen Avondale School as a work site for their Serve Day, and they would be helping teachers move classrooms, repainting bathrooms, and other various tasks. I showed up with some trash bags and Clorox wipes, helped the teacher/coordinator unload some things from her car, and then left. I had promised my kid we were going to the water park! As a result, I didn't spend time packing properly. I forgot my flip-flops (which I don't like anyway) and extra shorts. We were sort of doomed from the beginning.

After we had breakfast, and walked around at Avondale Park's Park in the Park car show on the way. AJ enjoys this event and it is always cool to see such well-preserved antique cars. AJ liked the VW bus "Mystery Machine"

Then we were off to the water park. We stood in line to get our tickets - McDonald's was handing out coupons. We stood in line to get in the gate. We stood in line to get our food. We stood in line to get our locker. You get the picture. After we ate, we headed off to the attractions, including:
Kahuna Waves
Castaway Island
Warrior River (my favorite)
Neptune's Plunge
Mist-ical Maze
We tried to go to Splashdown. Ben went down, and when it was AJ's turn, she absolutely refused to go down the slide. I didn't blame her, so we went back down all those stairs!

Later, we attempted to go to the Wipeout, and obstacle course, but when we got near the front of the line, the ride became "temporarily closed."

Disgusted and hot, we decided to skip the rest of the rides and call it a day.

We saw some truly horrible tattoos, smelled some truly horrible body odor, and were truly horrified at ourselves when we could not locate our car in the parking lot. It is probably a good thing we did not take any pictures. We all looked rough and red from sunburn by the time it was over.

But we were glad we went. It gave us insight that we're not ready for Six Flags yet - Ben has grown to hate theme parks and AJ does not have the patience for the extreme heat.

Maybe next year.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Digging in the Drafts: Rolling By

"Anna June went roller skating with a friend on Saturday afternoon. She did much better than the last outing in July."

This was the start of a post from 2014. I have since blogged about her roller skating as one fun thing we did here

The time is just rolling by. I hope we have lots more time to have fun this summer, whether or not it is at a roller rink.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Digging in the Drafts: Game Ball

In the first part of the season, Anna June's team had not won a game yet. I think they were 0-4. There were  a couple of games that were rained out, and one rescheduled game rained out. The weather was not been cooperative. April is the cruelest month, indeed.

Speaking of the rain, our ball park is raining money to re-do the fields so that they drain better. Right now they can't play if it is raining or even if it has been raining. Water just puddles up and the field conditions are terrible.

So you can click on this link where is says "Southside Ball" and get to the video about how the park is raising money to fix this issue.

The regular season may be over...but we are still working hard to raise money to repair our fields. Please share this...
Posted by Southside Ball on Monday, June 15, 2015

And another thing about baseball - the coaches didn't like that there was another red team in their 5-team league, so they ordered new jerseys for the Pirates, this time in black and gold instead of red and gold. Suddenly, instead of being #1, AJ was suddenly wearing #5.

On a Thursday night, AJ's team was the visiting team, so they got to bat first. The first kid led off with a "homerun." That is, as you may expect in 7-8 year old league, he hit the ball and the fielding team was unable to successfully throw him out, so he kept running to each base until he made it home.

AJ didn't get to bat the first inning, but she did the second. Her coaches gave her pointers on how to hold her bat and step in to her swing. After she made the corrections accordingly, she got a hit!

I don't know how it works in this league, I really don't. There are a lot of weird rules. First of all, no team can score more than 7 runs per inning. Even if there are not three outs yet, once you get to seven runs, the other team gets a turn at bat. This surprised me the first time I witnessed it and had to ask the coach about it later. Although this rule has been invoked a few times since our defense was so bad, this time our team was the 7-run scorer! Actually, later in the game, the other team had the same problem.

Also, unlike the big leagues, you can sub kids in and out. So after AJ played the first inning (at her last Saturday game) in the outfield and another teammate came out in her place to right field, I sent her Nana home, thinking there was nothing further to see!

For some reason, even though another little boy went out to the outfield in AJ's place, she was still allowed to bat. I trust the coaches and team moms sending kids to the plate understand the rules. I still have no clue. One way or the other, though, AJ was allowed to bat a second time, and she got another hit! That's right, our kid got 2 hits in the same game! I was very proud.

Games go for 75 minutes, and it was exciting right to the end. They still lost, but AJ was awarded her team's game ball. She was so excited.

We still don't know if she'll continue to play past this season, but we are glad she's giving it a shot. I have to be honest - there were a couple of practices where she got in trouble with the coach for being unfocused or having a less than positive attitude. But she has turned the corner and is starting to have fun.

Go Pirates!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Digging in the Drafts: Easter

Anna June had a good Easter.

We got up early to see the basket the Easter Bunny had filled. That guy went overboard. There was a ton of chocolate and jelly beans, and even a Reese's peanut butter chocolate bunny. There were also some Despicable Me minion pajamas and some Crazy Sand. Sweet!

Then, we went to Sunrise Service.

After church, we had lunch at Aunt Connie and Uncle Tim's house. The Easter Monkey came to visit and brought a bunch more candy and decorative bananas.

AJ stayed in her Easter dress long enough for all the relatives to see it and then she changed in to play clothes. This was handy for throwing the ball and blowing bubbles with Wesley out in the yard, which they did both before and after she changed.

I baked a pretty good pound cake.

A good time was had by all.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Golden Birthday: Part 3

Anna June enjoyed the third and final celebration of her birthday as well.

We went to Rusty's BBQ for a very well-attended party. We had sent invitations to everyone that showed the info for both parties. We didn't want those unable to come to the "kid" party to miss out, so we invited everyone to both parties.

This was great on paper but not in practice.

First of all, cousin Judy had wanted to come to both parties, but did not know there were two Chuck E. Cheese's, and she went to the wrong one.

Secondly, nearly everyone we invited came to at least one party. Someone trying to be frugal would have freaked out a little. Thankfully, Rusty cut us a deal and had his staff set up a buffet with limited menu options. This kept us from being there all night waiting for everyone's individual order.

But AJ had a lot of fun. Running around Rusty's with her friends was definitely a great time. She asked for and got a Gooey Cake for her birthday. Plain and simple. And golden, incidentally. I like it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Golden Birthday: Part 2

The main event for Anna June's birthday was her party at Chuck E. Cheese. We tossed around ideas about what to do for her birthday and she quickly decided that the Chuck E. Cheese on 280 was where she wanted to have a party. Evidently, the Chuck in Vestavia is old news.

We arrived a little early for our party, but they were not yet open. We had to visit the Gluten-Free Bakery down the way in the same shopping center to take advantage of their restroom, as Chuck E.'s employees absolutely would not let us in, even though the birthday girl had to go!

Lots of kids AJ invited were able to come. There was lots of excited game playing and lots of eating. We brought a pan of brownies we'd made (from a mix) and individual cups of Blue Bell ice cream (before the recall). The parents had fun visiting and watching kids with Chuck himself. AJ got her turn in the ticket booth where she got to grab all the tickets she could in a certain period of time.

Everyone had fun, especially AJ. Because we were on a tight timeline, we did what I don't like doing at birthday parties - we took the gifts home to open them. After 2 hours, they kick you out, and we ran out of time. But AJ got a lot of great presents she loved.

The best present, though, is that her daddy showed up! He had been gone to Milwaukee for his grandmother's funeral and my mom had just picked him up from the airport. It was a great day.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Golden Birthday: Part 1

Anna June turned 7 on March 7. Turning 7 on the 7th is called your Golden Birthday. This is not something I grew up celebrating, but I thought it was a great starting point for a theme. We all liked the idea so we were off and running.

On Friday March 6, we took a rainbow shaped fruit pizza to AJ's school. I had contacted the teacher beforehand to ask if it was OK, as I had seen it was the same day as Career Day. I wanted to come, read the kids a story, serve the pizza, and leave. Somehow, this worked into my eating lunch with AJ as well. The teacher said the time should be fine, and she would leave word for the substitute, as she'd be out that day.

This should have been my red flag. I should have said I would come the following Monday. But it was better for me to be there on Friday, schedule-wise, so I went ahead.

AJ and I made the fruit pizza the night before. It looked great. I rolled out, cut and baked the crust, and she helped me spread the sauce (vanilla Greek yogurt) and place the fruit. It was adorable. I found the idea here.

The execution of this feat was difficult - I had to take the pizza to work with me to put in the big fridge and then remember to bring it, the plates and napkins to school later in the day. But not that much later - they eat lunch at 10:40!

AJ gets to pick 2 days per week to bring her lunch, and she picked that day. The kids who bring their lunch go immediately to sit down at the table, while the kids taking advantage of the school lunch go and stand in line for theirs. Well, I was hungry but I didn't eat, because I didn't want AJ sitting by herself eating her lunch while I stood in line for school lunch. So we visited, and gradually, as the kids came and sat at the table, I talked to them all. I think I embarrassed AJ. I asked all of them about what they planned to be when they grew up. I heard great answers, like fireman, princess, and mommy.

Then, we had to go to Career Day. Note: this is exactly what I wanted to avoid. This added another hour to my visit, which I had not anticipated. We saw some good presenters, like Ms. Eve from the library, and some not-so-great presenters, like the policeman who said he was only there to talk to 4th and 5th graders. The sub left me with the children while she went back to do some paperwork. This was fine, but I had not planned to be there. Other volunteers were asking me about my class and I had to explain I was a parent who just ended up there.

Then, we went back to class. I served the pizza. I read the story, one AJ had picked out in the classroom, despite my research that had me checking out a bunch of these books to try out with AJ. She liked all of them but still wanted me to read Arthur's Birthday Surprise from her class.

Eventually, I got to go back to work via a drive-through on the way. But then I realized I left my phone at the school and had to go BACK. So frustrating. Too much excitement for one day.

Monday, July 13, 2015

One Fun Thing: Water Balloon Fight

Anna June knows great ways to beat the summer heat.

One of them is tossing water balloons.

Even though adults may find filling balloons and then having to pick up their pieces from the ground tedious, AJ thinks it is fun.

On Sunday, July 5, we set out to drench each other at home for free instead of chancing the cloudy skies to go to the water park.

AJ meticulously filled up her balloon pump tank and went to work all by herself. I sat in a chair to blow some bubbles and watch. She filled several balloons before running out of water. When she went to refill it, the handle broke.

We tried to fill them up in the sink, the traditional way, but that did not work well. We found the tip adapter for the hose and went back outdoors to fill a couple of buckets of balloons.

Maybe because they'd been sitting in the shed so long they were more fragile (i.e., kind of dry-rotted). Maybe because she is seven she didn't have the dexterity needed. Maybe because they are made to break easily that so many of them broke - it wouldn't be a water balloon fight if no water came out. But the filling of the balloons took an exceptionally long time.

Eventually, we were at this point.

In a matter of minutes, we had thrown two buckets of balloons at each other, dumping the remaining water on a very soaked AJ.

I hope she grows up to remember her parents let her have fun sometimes.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

One Fun Thing: Chuck E. Cheese

Because I promised Anna June she could do one fun thing per weekend, even though I was busy trying to get prepared for our staycation, we decided to go to Chuck E. Cheese on the weekend of June 27. We had a ton of tokens left from her birthday party and a gift card from Granny, so we headed down Highway 280 to the place where "a kid can be a kid."

I realize I haven't posted about her birthday party yet. Sorry.

Anyway, we really think it's less of a kid being a kid and more of a kid being taught how to gamble. The Chuck E. Cheese devotees are the electronic slot machine junkies of the future.

We went around the place with AJ to play as many games as she liked. Having eaten elsewhere on the way, we were not distracted by hunger or birthday chaos - it was just our party of three going around trying to win as many tickets for AJ as possible.

On a game called "Robin Hood," players shot a crossbow arrow to hit various targets. If you went to the bonus round and hit the apple off the character's head with your arrow, you won 50 tickets. Ben and I could not hit this apple, but Anna June did. She was pretty excited with her victory.

In the end, AJ had nearly 400 tickets. She selected all types of junk, including a bracelet and a neon orange spider.

Our cup of tokens was completely full. I don't know if our bonus tokens from her birthday never got distributed or if parents at her party kept buying their kids tokens instead of asking us, or what. But we had a ton. We have yet to even tap into the gift card.

We also had a receipt with a "fill out a survey, get free tickets" deal, so AJ insisted that I take it. Now she has planned for us to go back in the near future before this coupon expires.

Maybe we'll go to the other location for the sake of variety.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Staycation - Day 5

Friday -

This was basically our recovery day. We all kind of did things around the house that we wanted to do, like nap, laundry, and read.

In the morning, I had a PTA meeting at the bank, which took longer than it should have, but was productive.

AJ and Ben worked on the cruise ship model until it broke.

No sweet treats, to atone for the double dose on Thursday.

For our fun adventure of the day, I took AJ to "Off the Wall" which used to be the Crestwood location of "iJump 280." She is about to outgrow the climbing and jumping in the ball pit. We were disappointed to learn they were understaffed and the rock wall was closed. But there was the video arcade, and she had allowance. So she played a bunch of video games.

She's good at winning tickets. But Off the Wall is a small place and they can't always get to the maintenance as quickly as they'd like. For example, when I went to make change in the machine, it would not work at all, so we went to the snack bar, who sent us to the front desk. AJ played her money's worth, and then we went to redeem tickets. There were only 3 people working, running the snack bar/ticket redemption, front desk and party area. When the employee came to wait on us, I looked over and saw a bunch of people coming in the door and no one at the front desk. I told her we could wait while she took care of this birthday party coming in. (Parents have to sign waivers for their kids to jump, and someone has to take their money and forms.) AJ had more time to decide which tiny pieces of junk she'd fill her room with. While we were waiting, another family came over to the prize area, and the kids were picking out what they wanted. A little boy about three years old pointed to the plastic dinosaurs that were 35 tickets. His dad said they would wait and see if they had enough - the employee weighs the tickets on a scale instead of the more sophisticated Ticket Muncher machines at Chuck E. Cheese. AJ had been considering a Ring Pop, but instead requested a dinosaur. I thought this was just because she didn't want to mess up her sealants. But when she got the dinosaur, she handed it over to the little boy. My heart pretty much melted.

Meanwhile, there was a game called "Tower of Power" that she put a quarter in, but it got stuck. I had the bright idea of putting another quarter in, and it got stuck, too. The game next to that we played but missed the "error" sign about giving out tickets. So we reported these two problems. The employee that came over found that some kid had stuck a ticket in the coin slot of the Tower of Power, causing the jam, so we got our coins back. The other machine was more complicated, but she got it working, too. Maybe it was all of our patient interactions or just good karma, but the employee gave AJ a voucher for 300 tickets! She was very excited and came home with all manner of junk, including a glitter baton and balloons.

Dinner was ground turkey tacos. Who could ask for anything more?

I'd say that Camp Mom/Staycation 2015 was a big success. We got to do many of the things we never have time to do, and we were not rushed or stressed. I did not check work email, or get any calls or texts while I was gone. We had a great time - maybe we can do it again next summer.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Staycation - Day 4

Thursday -

Since he thought we were having too much fun without him, Ben took off Thursday to make it a 4-day weekend.

We were keeping an eye on the weather, hoping to get to the water park. But then, while we were eating lunch at Chick-fil-A, it started to pour. So we headed home to call to check on the situation of the indoor pool at the UAB Campus Rec center. They told us the pool would be camp-free at 12:45, so we headed down.

Besides Ben's having to walk all the way back to the car for his ID, we had a nice time. AJ got to show us some of the strokes she's learning in swim lessons. We played in the whirlpool (vortex) and then rode floats down the "lazy river." Ben and I played pool basketball (U-A-B instead of H-O-R-S-E), which I won. Then we got in the hot tub. This was AJ's favorite part, as she is not allowed to go in the hot tub during camp without a parent to supervise. Ahhhh.

Then, we went to Steel City Pops for our sweet treat of the day. I got chocolate and peanut butter and it was fantastic. AJ got strawberry and Ben got pineapple. Very drippy but very good.

Then, we went to Tuscaloosa and spent the rest of the day trading in the Green Machine for a new 2013 Chevy Volt. It is great, but needed some recalls attended to, so we had to leave it there and drive a loaner back to Birmingham, with a promise that our salesman would meet up with us ASAP to get us our car. We were less than thrilled, but went to Ruby Tuesday to celebrate anyway. AJ was starving and cleaned her plate, so we had a strawberry shortcake sundae to top it off.

More on the car to come at a later time.

Stay tuned for more from Camp Mom!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Staycation - Day 3

Wednesday -

We had pretty iffy weather all week, which was a problem at Camp Mom. We couldn't make definite plans.

We got up and baked homemade blueberry muffins from scratch. They were fantastic, and pretty large.

Then, we decided the weather was holding enough so we went to Crestwood Park for a quick game of tennis. I say quick because the heat was getting to us. Also, we are terrible. AJ is getting the hang of things, though, and I'd love to see her take lessons again if she'd like.

You know what else you miss when you're in an office building during weekdays? Our civil defense testing. Our tornado sirens are tested the first Wednesday of each month at 10:00 AM. Instead of being 6 floors up and indoors, this particular day we were standing right in front of Girls, Inc. at the former Holman Elementary School where they have a TORNADO SIREN. Let's just say this surprised the heck out of us. It was very loud.

Later, we went for lunch at Ben's office. They have a very nice cafeteria, so we ate and got to tour his space and meet his co-workers.

Then, we stopped by the credit union to make a deposit in AJ's savings account. She had gotten some birthday money, some Easter money, and some allowance lately, so she's doing pretty well financially. I also needed some $1 bills for snow cone money for camp. The NOLA Ice truck visits Rec Center camp twice per week. The week before, I had forgotten about it and had to walk all the way to get some cash and then all the way to the Rec Center, only to learn that AJ didn't KNOW I had brought the money to camp and she skipped the snow cone time. Maybe that is why I was so big on cold sweet treats at Camp Mom. Maybe not.

Then we visited Vulcan. Despite seeing the statue all the time, AJ had never been there. The clerk gave her a scavenger hunt to do, so we were more focused on that than the actual exhibits. Then, we did what AJ had been wanting to do - we walked up (and down) all 159 stairs to Vulcan's observation deck. Crazy.

#vulcaning at the foot of Vulcan

Vulcan's torch was lit up red on days when there had been traffic fatalities, but green the rest of the time. This is a part of my childhood. 
 AJ at the top

We left the observation deck when we heard thunder. You can see the clouds rolling in.

Our sweet treat of the day was the milkshake - Rally's had gotten their machine fixed.

Then we went to visit Granddaddy Jerome briefly. We took him some black bean enchiladas and some blueberry muffins, which were good enough to elicit a compliment by telephone the next day.

When AJ had been to the dentist the day before, she got 4 different prizes from the prize machine. One just for visiting, one for sitting through the sealant application, and 2 for enduring the filling like a champ. One of the prizes was a blond self-adhesive mustache. We looked at it and both agreed that it reminded us of Bernie Brewer.

So on Wednesday night, she dressed up like the Brewers' mascot. We tweeted the picture and it got several favorites and retweets - my phone was "blowing up."

Here are a couple more, for good measure:

Dinner was semi-homemade pizza, with dough from the Publix deli. Bed was welcome.

Stay tuned for more from Camp Mom.