Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pumpkin Book Report

Anna June, in the second grade "advanced" reading group, was asked to do a special project called a Pumpkin Book Report. 

Evidently, this is a thing.  

AJ was having a hard time deciding, so, with some conversations, we hit upon an idea she liked.






This is Fudge, from Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. In one scene, Mr. Hatcher is so furious with 2.5 year old Fudge for not eating, even after Mrs. Hatcher takes him to several doctors and cooks special foods, he tells Fudge, refusing to eat a bowl of cereal, that he will "eat it or wear it," and wear it he does.

I read the scene again while AJ was working on the pumpkin, and it made me laugh out loud, just as it did when I was in elementary school reading it for the first time. Although this time, I was laughing as I could relate more to the frustrated parent with a kid on a hunger strike rather than the exasperated older sibling watching the shenanigans unfold. I mean, I survived being a kid and having three younger brothers, but it has been much more recent that I've had a toddler. And I just stayed with one at the beach, who has certain culinary preferences.

The kids had to bring in a worksheet that listed the title of the book, the author, and the character represented. Then, in class, they had to give a brief speech about their pumpkin and the book.

AJ did all the drawing and coloring, as well as attaching the bowl herself.

I obtained the pumpkin (Aldi) and small bowl (work break room), and used the hot glue (with supervision from Ben), although AJ (mostly) told me where to put the cereal. In the book, the cereal is Corn Flakes, but we had Cap'n Crunch, so that's what we used.

It was also hat day at school, so here she is.





And here's a group photo.



Last two photos via Ms. Mize on the school's Facebook page.



Friday, October 30, 2015

Anti-Bullying Rally Week

Anna June's school has some terrific programs going on. The school counselor, Mrs. English, has encouraged the whole school to come together during October, Anti-Bullying Month, so that the kids and teachers can have conversations about bullying and how to prevent it.

It's interesting. I don't think we had such things when I was a kid. We pretty much had the Golden Rule and a paddle in the Principal's office.

Anyway, this last week of October was Rally Week, the last week in the Anti-Bullying Campaign. Today is a Teacher Work Day, so each of the 4 days this week there were special dress up themes.


On Monday, the theme was "Be Someone's Hero." The kids were to wear "a superhero t-shirt, cape, etc." Fortunately, Anna June still has the cape that she got at a birthday party as a favor. It has been the gift that keeps on giving.


Tuesday's theme was "Put a Cap on Bullying" and the instructions were "wear a hat today."

I got this picture from her reading teacher's Facebook post. Even though she has many hats, she picked the Brewers one. More on that pumpkin she's holding in a separate post.






Wednesday was "Take a Stand Against Bullying" and the instructions said to "Wear socks that are crazy, unique, unmatched, or create your own." I told her there was no way we were creating our own, so, as we've done before, AJ got up early and made her own sock scarf by safety pinning a bunch of colorful socks together to tie around her neck. She also secured her ponytail in a sock and she had mismatched socks on her feet. I didn't get to take a picture of her, but I asked her to take a self-portrait in the car on the way to school. This is the best one we got.




Thursday was "Teaming Up to Defeat Bullying" and the note said for kids to "wear spirit wear or any organization gear that you work together as a team." AJ did not hesitate when she decided to wear a Brewers shirt.



I don't know if kids dressing up will help them not become bullies, but at least Anna June had fun.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Family Reunion - Part II

Anna June was photographed a lot on our beach trip, but probably not as much as the babies. This is our blog, so here are some of the best pictures of our baby:



On Saturday night, after the photo session, we let the kids play ball in the street in front of the house. Don't worry - they were closely supervised in this gated community, which was almost deserted since it was the off-season.


AJ was a great helper with the little ones, especially Wesley. Here they are walking from the house we stayed in to Scott's house.



And, the moment you've all been waiting for, the official Gallitz family photo, 2015







But here's the unofficial one -

(AJ was making a face because her shoe was about to fall off, but it looks like it was because she had to take a picture with us.)







Again, many thanks to Patrick for bringing his excellent camera and uploading all of these for us to grab.



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Family Reunion - Part I

Anna June traveled like a champ to the beach with us for our family reunion at Grayton Beach. The first was held in 2008 and was AJ's first trip to Florida. That was the trip where our pictures got stolen with our camera upon our return.

We went back in 2010, the year my grandfather died, which was AJ's second trip to Florida. It just so happens that we went at Halloween, and we have some great memories from then. Just looking at the pictures of my parents with AJ on the beach that trip is so special. AJ still talked about the effects of the oil spill this go-round.

Anyway, it was a long drive for a short trip, but we really enjoyed getting to see everyone. Our family has grown so much since our first trip in 2008. And not everyone could be there, of course. We really missed my grandparents - someone brought down some of grandma's enormous stash of photographs, and it was fun to see old pictures of everyone.

Speaking of pictures, we had a great photo shoot with everyone who was there, shot by my cousin Morgan's boyfriend, Travis. Huge thanks to Patrick for bringing his good camera! We couldn't have done it without either of you!

Without further ado, here is everyone:





Here is a picture of just the kids of my generation (Hazel's grandkids) and AJ's generation (Hazel's great grandkids):


As in years past, we took photos on the porch rather than the actual beach, because it was easier for the older people (and the babies, to be honest). Also, the Alabama football game was on. The beach is across the highway and down a little bit, and the house is not on the water. If you think you're getting some of these guys away from the TV on a Saturday during football season, you're wrong.

Here's the Tucker side:





Mom's siblings all came, except Uncle Larry. He was in Columbia, South Carolina, doing repairs after the recent hurricane. We are so glad that he is able to be of service, but we missed him. Here are the siblings, minus that one:




And another picture with just the sisters:



As a whole, our family has had a pretty rough year. First we lost Grandma in February, and then Uncle Chip had to go in the hospital for an extended period of time. Counting rehab, he was in at least 3 different hospitals (maybe 4) and has finally ended up on dialysis. He is much improved and we were so thrilled he and Aunt Kristy could make the trip, as they weren't able to make the last two. Here they are, glad to be seen not in a hospital room:


Aunt Heidi has had a rough year, too, with a tree falling on her house! She was fine and is getting some new rooms out of the deal, but it's been tough. Here she is with her daughter Morgan.


 
Here's a picture of Uncle Scott with his family, our gracious hosts. Seriously, we hit them up from everything from wine to toilet paper and they could not have been more hospitable. We rented a couple of houses in the subdivision, and they were fabulous, but we had the main gatherings at his house, with its recently renovated kitchen.


And here's Aunt Vicki with her crew. She was trying to get the kids to smile, and this is the best shot of many - but I love it.




Speaking of kids, this year wasn't all bad. Rusty and Beth welcomed Thomas in April.


And Patrick, Liz, and Wesley welcomed Nathan in June.




Here are some more group shots I wanted to include -
My cousin Michael with his wife Michele and their son, Oliver:

Mom and Dad



Morgan and Travis



We had such a good time. On Friday, we went to the pool with Morgan. It was a little too cold (84 degrees) to swim, but we couldn't pass up the opportunity. Friday night, some of us went to Rosemary Beach for a drink at Paradis, while AJ and Thomas stayed with Aunt Vicki and Uncle Chip. We came back to eat Bar-B-Q from Rusty's at Scott's house. On Saturday, Ben, AJ and I went down to the beach after a delicious breakfast made by Patrick and Rusty (including made-from-scratch biscuits!) and walked the entire length (on the shore) of Grayton Beach State Park and back. It wasn't that far, but I made it to 15,000 steps that day, which I have not done since I began tracking with Fitbit in January. AJ loved wading in the water, especially in the seaweed - it was a new sensation. We left AJ at the beach with Patrick and his crew while Ben and I went on a date to Hurricane Oyster Bar for lunch. On Sunday morning after we ate (Ben got donuts from the Donut Hut!) and did a few things around the house, AJ and I went for a walk on the beach just the two of us. It was a little chillier but it was by no means cold. She waded, more carefully this time, because we had to get on the road to home - work and school were waiting for us.

We wished we could have stayed longer.





Monday, October 26, 2015

Just This Past Week

Anna June is having a crazy, fun, busy, exhausting, exciting, and memorable October.

We are both looking forward to NO-vember starting on Sunday. In the meantime, here are some of our adventures from just this past week.

On Monday 10/19, we re-entered the real world after our family reunion in Grayton Beach, Florida. AJ had missed Friday of school and we missed work to go down for a very short but very special trip. Among the things in AJ's very crowded backpack was her report card - All A's again! We actually already knew this, because Ms. Echols emailed it to us while we were out of town. That's a teacher going above and beyond. We got to brag to the whole family before we had to come back to errands, chores, and work.



On Tuesday the 20th, AJ had her final baseball practice of the season. I also attended the kickoff meeting for the UAB Staff Council. This was exciting to me, because students and faculty currently have university-wide representation, but the staff does not. I attended on behalf of my division and reported back. I am not running for the council but I am glad there is a venue where we can share ideas.

Wednesday was special because school let out early. Through a district-wide initiative, the teachers at each school have regular professional development to keep up with all the new things going on. So after lunch, I went to pick up AJ. I asked her what she'd like to do together for a short amount of time, and she said she'd like to take a walk at Avondale Park, even though we were there less than a day before. The weather was beautiful, so I agreed to a few laps around the pond.
Then, we went to the pediatrician's office for AJ's flu vaccine (FluMist). We didn't get it in August at her annual checkup, because they didn't have the nose spray kind. At least this year I didn't mess up the name. I think I still owe my insurance company a phone call about that.

Our next stop was Trussville. First, and best, we went to Yogurt Mountain. As I posted on Instagram and Facebook, we "had a #BOGO for #froyo at #YOMO, so, well, #YOLO." (If you need a translation in English, I had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for frozen yogurt at Yogurt Mountain, and we decided to go for it, because you only live once.) AJ enjoyed trying "candy laces" as a topping.


Then we got our hair cut. AJ's school picture day was looming and it was looking a little ragged (as mine was) since the last time. AJ's turned out well, with Cindy putting it in a side ponytail for some variety. The jury is still out on mine - I thought that I looked a little like Ramona Quimby, Age 8, when the next day I had not touched it and I hadn't yet put on makeup.


After haircuts we went to Target to return the air mattress we bought on the way to the beach because we said we would bring ours and then remembered en route that we had forgotten it. The good news was we didn't have to use it - the house was so big and well-appointed - so I had to take it back, and of course pick up a few more things. Then we went home and made dinner and did all the usual night time stuff.

En route, though, AJ pointed out that my car was hot. It was in the 80s and the air conditioning just was not getting cold. So on Thursday, I took the car to the dealership, and sure enough, there was a freon leak, and a new tube would be required. It was ordered, and I got my car back. Somewhere in there I got my flu shot - I was a little put out with my doctor's office, who I had called the day before to ask if I needed an appointment and the new "call center" couldn't tell me. Eventually I got an email that said, no, I didn't. But now all the Gallitzes are vaccinated for 2015. This is your official reminder to get yours if you haven't yet.



I then went to AJ's school for their "Lights On After School" Program. This is a national event for after school programs, but although the kids and their performances were joyful, the one at our school was kind of somber. You see, this is the end of an era - when the kids come back to school in January, there will be a different non-profit organization running after school care at Avondale. We are very sad that the school district has chosen to close this department, but between finances and politics, the parents never stood a chance in this fight. While other schools in the district may not have good programs, ours does. However, the two organizations that are candidates to provide on-site childcare at the school are the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Alabama, both of which are fantastic agencies with a long history of providing kids with positive experiences after school. We are awaiting more information from the district. After the program, we went to eat Mexican food with some of our friends, fellow after school care families. It just so happens that AJ ended up at a table with 5 other kids, all boys. They had a good time and now have some sort of inside joke about jalapenos.

On Friday, it was the "Positive Behavior Support" Kickoff Program. I chose not to attend, but the kids were encouraged to wear both crazy socks and crazy hats, and, if they paid $1, they could wear a "crazy" out-of-uniform shirt. AJ concocted her ensemble, using her tie-dyed shirt with assorted hair clips as trim on the sleeves and stickers on the front. She tied socks in her hair and wore her ice cream sundae hat. And of course her socks did not match. There was some sort of competition, but she lost, even though her friends told her (unsolicited) that she should have won. Thanks, Granny, for all the socks and hair stuff - it is fantastic to have around when these types of "fun" days sneak up on us.


The Nissan dealership called with the part, and they were slow that day, so I was able to drop off and pick up the car in the same afternoon - since they're not that far from my office they have a courtesy driver to drop me off and pick me up - it was pleasant and efficient. I should probably fill out one of those satisfaction surveys.

On Saturday, we had the usual laundry and errands, but Ben and AJ decided to stay home, so I went to the library, grocery store, etc. all by myself. Then, I went to get a massage. I'm trying to go every month for a year, as the one I had last month was brutal but ended up relieving so much pain that it seems to be a good investment.

Sunday was AJ's final baseball game of Fall Ball. It was a tournament, so if they won, there would be a second game. Unfortunately, we didn't win, but that gave AJ and Ben some much-needed rest time as I worked my last shift of the season in the concession stand. If nothing else, it gives me much respect for those working at fast food counters - I was probably hollering for "nachos with peppers!" in my sleep last night. Then, we went to my parents' house for my mom's birthday. Liz made lasagna and brought bread and salad, Rusty brought wine, and we brought the cheesecake. All Mom's kids and grandkids were there, so she seemed pretty happy.

So that was our week.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Safe Walk to School

At the very last minute on Wednesday morning, Anna June decided she did want to participate in the Safe Walk to School event. Kids were meeting at 2 locations, Avondale Park and Piggly Wiggly - to walk to the school.

They were meeting EARLY! We were supposed to be there by 7:10 at the latest.

Why so early? For photo ops, of course!

Here's the best one I got:




The walk was a part of a national effort. There were all sorts of media covering the event at our location.

Some background from the national PTA is here. I love how in the picture they used, the land is flat and the sidewalk is well-kept.

That is not the case here in Birmingham. On the streets that do have sidewalks, they are not very safe - lots of cracks and bumps. Plus we're not great at having our public foliage maintained, so the branches of trees and bushes were kind of attacking us when we got near the school grounds.


My colleagues at work helped organize the event as part of an initiative to help get African-American kids more active. You can read about Birmingham REACH for Better Health here. At first they said how nice the walk was, as the weather was fantastic, and the turnout was not bad considering a friend mentioned it on Facebook and we didn't even get a flier sent home (so I know others did not, either). I told her it was "nice" because at that point, we were still near the park, where the street was flat. "Wait until we turn the corner," I said.

When we started to work up a sweat going up the incline, my friend from work declared, "This is kind of a steep hill!" and I said, "Wait until you see the driveway!" It's definitely steeper, although the sidewalk winds around to give it sort of a grade.

The partnering organization, Safe Routes to School of Central Alabama (a program of United Way's Healthy Communities initiative), is helping us try to create safer ways of kids walking to school. Maybe they will start with having the sidewalks fixed and the brush cut back. We'd love to make the "walking school bus" a regular thing, but then there's the matter of the adults having to walk back to our cars. If there were a big enough group, it may be worth doing. I will be honest - it was fun to have an active bonding time with other parents. But then again, the drop-off line works, too.

Friday, October 9, 2015

How I Know I'm Old

I asked my Granddad for his bran muffin recipe.

I told my dog I didn't want to go further because I didn't want to fall and break a hip.

My neighbor saw me and asked if I had changed my hair color. "Not intentionally," I should have said.

I have dialed a rotary phone before.

I still fax things.

I look around UAB's campus and say, "Back in my day, none of this was here!" and I mean it.

I cannot fathom events that start at 8:00 PM or later.

I call undergraduates "the children."

I have no idea who celebrities on awards shows or magazine covers are, and I don't want to know.

The guys at my high school reunion didn't have much hair.

How do you know you're old?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Stitch Fix - My First Fix

Anna June has a great wardrobe, and everything seems to fit. She has clothes for every occasion and wears them with style.

Although I do have a lot of clothes, I don't love everything. I shop online sometimes, with mixed results. I have a great fashionista friend, Michele, who helps me when I need it, but I don't often ask.


Enter Stitch Fix, a fashion delivery service that takes your preferences into account and sends you 5 pieces each time. You can keep what you want and send the rest back, paying a $20 fee per transaction that can be applied to the price of the pieces you keep.


I filled out a survey about what my preferences are and what types of activities I do, entering my sizes and other information. You can enter a link to your Pinterest board. Mine is called "Imaginary Outfits." It's like sending someone magazine clippings with sticky notes.



When I got my first Fix, I felt like my stylist, Michelle, "got" me.

Here's my review:

Let's start with the loser:
The gray jeans. (Level 99: Giovanni Straight Leg Jean)

This is my fault. I really, really wanted Stitch Fix in general to work for me. They go up to size 14. Sometimes, I can wear a 14, but not every time. Evidently, there are other services for plus size fashion, but Stitch Fix does not at this time cater to larger women. I could not get into these jeans at all. AND they were $98. Luckily, I have a pair of gray jeans from Zulily.



Closer, but no cigar:
The gray and white top (Papermoon: Holden Top)

I liked this top's material, even though it was wrinkled in the package. But when I saw the dreaded "hand wash" directions, it went in the send back pile. Our lifestyle needs clothing that can ALL be tossed in the hamper, the washer, and the dryer until I eventually put it away. Every weekend I wash "delicates" on the "hand-wash" setting in my washing machine. I hang them to dry on the shower curtain rod in AJ's bathroom for about 24 hours. Ben comes in to the bathroom and declares, "Your clothes smell like mildew." I say they do not. So hand wash shirt, I don't need you.

Even closer, but I didn't take a picture:
The purple dress (Market & Spruce: Kelsie Dress)

It was sleeveless and flattering. But it also was wrinkled and couldn't go in the dryer. And I already have a purple dress.

So very close:
The statement necklace (Bay to Baubles: Melinda Statement Necklace)



I liked this necklace. But the price was $35. I just couldn't do it, thinking that could buy me half of another dress, and I have costume jewelry pieces. So I sent it back and then, I found a similar one at Payless for $7. Score!

The winner:
The Honeycomb navy dress (Pixley: Millie Textured Dress)

Even though this dress is "hand wash," I made an exception. I liked the color, design, and fit. I really needed a new dress, as my beautiful green dress from Target had met its demise.



I sent this to Michele my friend (not Michelle my Stitch Fix stylist) on Instagram and got her approval, and my pal Bertha agreed. It was $68, $20 of which I had already paid.


The take-home:
Trying on clothes this way was much less awkward than a dressing room. I could really take my time to decide rather than being pressured in-store.

I still think the subscription service is a win. The next one is due at the end of October. Lucky me!

*Updated to include the names of the pieces

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Our All-Star

Well, technically she's not an All-Star (they don't do that in Fall Ball), but Anna June's performance on Sunday may have earned her a spot on a team if one existed.

Anna June was a the pitcher position again. She didn't quite have the arm for third base, but she is paying attention, which is critical at pitcher. You have to know what's going on in the game, and how to field. We spent almost our whole lunch on Sunday discussing hypothetical fielding situations, and when it was game time, she was ready.

First off, Anna June caught a pop-up. If you've never had a kid play 7-8 year old ball (or younger), you will know that this almost never happens. They are not known for their catching skills. They get better as they mature and practice, but almost no kid catches a ball in the air for an out. But Anna June did. We were so excited. I was almost bursting with pride, and, frankly, surprise. We've seen play after play of almost catches, and we've seen her stop lots of grounders, but we had never seen her catch a ball in the air in a game. Never. I think she was surprised, too - it was almost like she didn't know what to do with it once it was in her glove. She didn't have to do anything: it was the third out!

We were amazed, as were our fellow parents in the stands. We were all so excited.

And then, she caught another fly ball for another out.

And then she did it again.

That's right - THREE outs of the game were because AJ caught them in the air.

And that's not all.

Early in the game, Anna June stopped a grounder and threw it to second base (to a kid named AJ, I think). That was another kid she helped get out.

PS - We've had to call her Anna June at baseball, because there's another AJ on the team!

And then, she stopped another ground ball and got it to our first baseman, who got another kid out. Amazing.

Don't think her prowess was just limited to defense, though.

Once, she hit the ball, but was thrown out at first. The other two at-bats were solid hits. She even was able to score one of the runs.




The team got their first win, 16-8, against the Southside Cubs. Incidentally, Anna June's the only girl in their age group at Southside, so she was the only girl on either team in this game.

Since it was their first win, it was the first time that a game ball had been presented. The coach got the ball and wrote her name on it in Sharpie. At the team meeting after the game, he presented the ball to Anna June.



Afterwards, we asked her if she had been surprised. "No," she said. "I could see my name on the ball!"



The other parents were really excited for her, and told us to get her a large ice cream sundae! She declined, opting instead for pretzel goldfish crackers at home, and then dinner at Rusty's.

It was a great day!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Seasonal

Anna June made a pumpkin from a coffee filter the other day. She told me that sometimes, she likes to make "seasonal" crafts.





She cited her turkey from last Thanksgiving.

And she mentioned her snowman from last Christmas.

Fittingly, I had to take down the Easter artwork from the fridge to hang the pumpkin.



Happy season!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fingers

Halloween is still weeks away, but Anna June is ready with these creepy fingers.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Best

Anna June is not the biggest football fan.

We're OK with that. I will have to admit that because we haven't yet watched an entire Packers game this season. We've been watching (and watching AJ play) baseball, we've been working and doing things around the house. And naps - we love our naps.

But anyway, on a recent Sunday, Ben was wearing what should be considered a Wisconsin Sunday outfit: Packers hat and cap.

Just so you know, the Packers are well-represented here in Alabama! We hope they win today!

PS - Birmingham actually does have love for the Packers, dating back to Bart Starr's amazing years with them. Speaking of Starr, there's a heartbreaking and fantastic article on him here on ESPN's site. When I was a kid, I just thought he was a car dealer - I had no idea what a legend was out there selling Hondas.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

It's Fall Ball, Y'all

Anna June signed up to play fall baseball at Southside in the two-team 7-8 year old league.

The teams play each other, as well as other parks in the area, including Huffman, Clay, and Fultondale.


Fall Ball is very different from the traditional baseball season. Because of when it starts and ends, the cutoff dates for ages are a little different and several players come up from the 5-6 league to 7-8. Like I said, it's very different.

Anna June is the only girl in 7-8 from Southside playing Fall Ball.

One big change is that she's playing infield.

The first game, she played third base. We realized, because she had never played infield, she didn't understand force plays. Now she does.


(photos courtesy Aunt Liz)


The second and third games, she has played the pitcher position. This league is still "coach pitch" but a kid also stands at the pitcher's mound to field balls. Anna June has done well stopping balls from getting past her. Her first time at pitcher, she learned about covering first base. Her second game, she learned about covering home. In both games, we learned that wearing the protective gear is cumbersome, but deemed necessary.






Anna June's team is the Angels. They wear these hats and shirts, along with gray pants, navy belts, and navy socks.

 (Photo courtesy Coach Shaw)

So she had a cleats, a glove, and a helmet. We had also promised that if she stuck with baseball, we'd get her own bat. Then the zipper broke on her bag, so we got her a less-girly and more practical baseball bag, which has a spot for her bat.

Fall Ball is less formal. For example, the schedule wasn't able to be finalized for the whole season before opening day. There was no evaluation beforehand to make the teams "fair." There's only one practice per week (usually) and one game per week. So we had one practice, and then we had one game. "That's Fall Ball!" they told us.

At the first game, the coach was to come with the jerseys and caps. He arrived at game time, leaving parents panicking over lack of uniforms and leadership for their kids.  "That's Fall Ball!" we heard.

In the Spring, the concession stand is run by a person with experience, with parent volunteers supplementing on a set schedule. The day our team moms picked to help was a day that was rained out, with the rescheduled date on a weeknight where the concession stand was not open. So I had my first concession stand duty for a 3.5 hour shift! (That's Fall Ball, I assume.)

The schedule has changed several times, including the time of our game in Huffman for Week 3, causing at least one player to miss game time. Another game was cancelled so we'll play our in-park rivals. After the season started, a child who had never played baseball before joined the team. Rolling with it, evidently, is the name of the game in Fall Ball.

At the first game, Anna June had 9 fans in the stands! She had 4 at the second one, and just her dad and me at the third one (an away game). All games have been losses so far. Every game shows some improvement on the part of our kids. In the first game, AJ got a hit and was able to come in to score a run. She also got a hit in the second game. She's come close to making some big plays, and we'll expect to see more in the future.