Monday, March 7, 2016

The End

This is my last post on this blog.

I am very sad to let it go, but hear me out.

Anna June turns eight years old today. For eight wonderful years, you have let me gush on as if my wonderful, beautiful, brilliant and amazing child has been the most interesting subject in the world.

To me, she is.

I want to know everything about her. I want to know how her day was. I want to know what she learned at school. I want to know about her grades. I want to know who her friends are. I want to know what she thought was funny, sad, outrageous, interesting, and cool. I want to know her thoughts about dinner and God and how school really is and life and chores and the color blue.

And I want to share all of that with you.

But now Anna June is eight years old.

She has become her very own person, who has thoughts and feelings and ideas and passions and fears and preferences. You know, a personality.

She is a person, and not a character. This is not The Truman Show.

As her own person, she has developed this wonderful introverted personality. She is honest and good and caring and loving. And she has asked that I stop blogging about her.

She is embarrassed.

Before I make it worse, before there are boyfriends and first dates, before there are entrance exams and standardized test scores that mean something, before there is awkward DIY makeup and hair, I am ending this blog.

My plan is to publish all 1500+ posts in book form, and to give a hard copy to each of her grandparents (plus one for us and one for her). Once this is done, I will leave this blog up as an archive until the end of the year, and then, I will take it down.

Obviously, there's nothing on the internet that's ever truly gone, but I want to try to make it slightly more difficult for future friends or enemies to know exactly what days she threw up when she was an infant, for example.

This girl has so many wonderful things in store for her life. I cannot keep doing this if I think there's even one chance it is holding her back, even a little bit.

When I started this blog, AJ was a baby. She could not speak. She could not read or write.

But now, Anna June can do all of those things, very well. If you want to know what is going on with her, ask her. Give her a call. Set up a Google Hangout or a Skype session if you're far away. Spend time with her if you're not. She loves her family very much and would love to see you. She is old enough now that she gets to learn how to build relationships all on her own, without me grabbing on one aspect to write about and then having you feel like you need to start from there.

She has her own stories to tell. I will let her tell them.

I will still be writing, but I will mostly be keeping it to myself. I have a journal and I am hoping to use it. I will probably be writing angry letters to politicians and helping Rusty with his blog. Maybe I'll even be guest posting somewhere or working on a book. But this blog is closing.

Thank you for a wonderful eight years.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Out of Order

Our life right now is like this: school, work, PTA, baseball. Repeat.

Sometimes we get that out of order, but that's mostly it.

Since my last post there have been some changes.

Baseball - schedule has not yet been set. Uniform colors have been chosen unofficially but not confirmed officially. The Blue Jays will (likely) wear blue jerseys and blue hats with white pants, a royal blue belt and royal blue socks. Ben has ordered a new-to-him glove, as the old one has still not shown up and it was coming apart anyway.

PTA - the Bake Sale went really, really well. We put out a jar for "fat-free" donations and our grand total was $1217.86 - a new record! Now on to the next million things to do.

The banner that lives in the trunk of my car but is ripped and sticks to nothing. It fell seconds after this photo.

I totally spilled their mom's coffee. And then they stepped in it.
We had customers. And AJ has Star Wars socks in her hair. See below.

Official "making children work before they've had breakfast" photo

Work - For me, work has been busy. Ben has been doing a training course from home this week, saving him the early morning commute. He's not looking forward to getting back to the 5 AM wake-up time on Monday. 

School - School's going great for AJ, but it is kind of driving me nuts. First of all, the Math Derby has been postponed yet again, for another week. AJ hasn't really been practicing, so I guess that's OK but now I need to re-do my time off request. 

This week has been "Read Across America Week," which is an annual event to coincide with Dr. Seuss's birthday. Volunteers from the community came to read to the children on Wednesday, as they did in many other schools. AJ's school was visited by the Mayor of Birmingham, William Bell. 

This year, it also brought a week's worth of special out-of-uniform days. 

We got the flier and the call on Monday night. Tuesday, we had to be at school early for the Bake Sale, so AJ didn't get photographed properly. She did wear a bunch of different socks simultaneously. And then, she decided to put socks in her hair as well. So here's the best

Wednesday was Wacky. AJ put on her tie-dyed shirt, inside out and backwards, over her striped tights and striped shorts, completing the look with her polka dot boots. Fortunately, it was Wacky Wednesday at lots of schools, so I didn't feel that bad when my mom picked up AJ as a surprise to take her birthday shopping. (Although AJ did feel bad when she first saw Nana at school, unannounced - she thought something must be wrong!) Nana and Granddaddy took AJ to Target to pick out some toys and clothes, and this wouldn't have been very remarkable except that it was my dad's first visit to Target ever. How many times did my dad take me shopping for clothes when I was a little girl? Zero. Wacky Wednesday indeed. A very exhausted AJ did not want me to photograph her so I got her from the back. You get the idea.

Thursday was more "fun" with Character Day. AJ decided to be Sally from The Cat in the Hat. The Sally on TV (The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That) is dressed slightly differently than the one in the book. But AJ made the best of it and wore a pink sleeveless dress with a white shirt underneath, white tights, black flats, and a red bow in her hair. She said people knew she was Sally. Works for me.

Friday was pajama day in honor of The Sleep Book. This is the third pajama day of the school year if I am counting correctly. This was also a fundraiser for the yearbook sales offset I've mentioned before, but this part was not well-publicized. I hope they made some money.

Monday, which is AJ's birthday, they'll wear hats. She is considering making something elaborate out of newspaper.

Monday through Friday of next week is Career Week. You would not think this involves dressing up, but it does. 

They've even gotten the careers all picked out for the kids.

Monday - entertainer; Tuesday - sports; Wednesday - lawyer; Thursday - medical; Friday - politician.

So now she has to be an entertainer wearing a hat on her birthday when I should bring something to share with the class and now I feel like my weekend is ruined and I have a headache. But the thrift store is having half price day tomorrow, with a special appearance by the Easter Bunny. I haven't even thought about Easter yet.

I realize that all of this is OPTIONAL and I shouldn't stress myself out. There have been, on occasion, times when AJ just doesn't want to participate. And that's OK. But something tells me if she can be out of uniform, she will be.

Monday, February 29, 2016

What's Up?

This past week was a whirlwind of activity.

On Tuesday, it was 60's - 70's - 80's day. AJ chose to dress up in the style of the 1980s. This is the best we could do with short notice. AJ did her own hair and already had all the jelly bracelets.

(Photo by Senora Blurry Cam)

All week, there were Black History events going on, including a "Motown Live" program on Wednesday and a "Wax Museum" on Thursday. AJ participated in the Black History play on Friday. The teachers wrote a very moving play focusing on the lives of some influential African Americans: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Barack Obama. Each scene began with an a capella spiritual, with accompanying dancing by "Serenity" the school's dance group. Selections included "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Wade in the Water," "Motherless Child," and "Amazing Grace." Then, the entire 5th grade (broken up into sections) presented their own poetry. They all began with the prompt, "My Black is Beautiful because..." and each student came to the microphone and said why they thought they were proud of their heritage. "My Black is beautiful because of my curly hair." "My Black is beautiful because I own it." "My Black is beautiful because of my loving heart." Although there are not many, there are students who are not Black, and those students began their sentences with "My Hispanic is beautiful," "My White is beautiful," "My Multi-colored Race is beautiful," and even, "My Hawaiian is beautiful." It was, actually, beautiful.

Moving on, there was a scene where kids acted out part of the famous person's life and contributions, and then the narrator segued that into a song that kids danced to. AJ, as a praise dancer, was in three of these numbers.

I took video, but it is unusable. I am sorry. If you come visit, I can pull it up on my phone and you can zoom in on AJ. You can't do it on a computer.

First of all, let me just say that AJ has rhythm and knew all the steps. Many teachers and parents commented on how good she was. She was more inspired than several kids, leading me to say that, well, maybe the Holy Spirit got hold of her. She still does not want to take dance lessons but she is interested in performing in plays, so there's that. Maybe drama camp in 2017.

She took it very seriously and "put feeling into it" as she said. It was a joy to watch, and I am glad that she did this, even though the kids had to give up some recess periods to practice.

They performed to "Imagine Me" by Kirk Franklin, "Shackles" by Mary Mary and "It's Working" by William Murphy. These Gospel songs were not particularly historic, and but they were woven into the story in such a way that they were relevant. And before anyone complains about Gospel music in the public schools, this was a history program, and the African American community has had such a complicated relationship with the church. Where it was once a force of oppression, it is now a source of empowerment.

Also this week, we found out AJ has been assigned to the Southside Blue Jays. She is on a team with one other little girl. There are 7 teams, and at least one other team has one other girl. Her coach is one of her coaches from Fall Ball. There's another dad involved who was from Fall Ball as well. On her team is one kid from the Angels of Fall Ball (that goes with the dad, obviously) and one other kid from the Pirates last Spring. So she knows a couple of the other kids already, which is nice.

Then, yesterday, the coach emailed Ben to ask if he'd be an assistant coach, at least temporarily, so he accepted. Now to find his glove...

Tomorrow is the PTA Election Day (for real this time) Bake Sale. We are setting up at 7:00 AM! I put the word out via Facebook that I was looking for help baking, and my friend got me 8 baking mixes that she just happened to have. So my from-scratch baking I had planned got shafted, because I was determined to bring these donated mixes to life. I asked on our PTA facebook group if anyone wanted to help, and I had a couple of takers. So on my Saturday errands, I went out to deliver a Sam's Club-sized box of peanut butter/Hershey's kiss cookie mix to Christine and a pack of sugar cookie mix and a pack of oatmeal cookie mix to Meg. Yesterday afternoon, since I had no other takers, AJ and I made 2 different packs of brownies with walnuts, a pack of Snickerdoodle (cinnamon and sugar) cookies, peanut butter and chocolate bars, and gluten free chocolate chocolate chip muffins. We used lots of eggs and butter! It was fun but exhausting. I can't even imagine that Mom does this all day long at the restaurant. We're hoping for a good turnout.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Some Updates

The Math Derby has been rescheduled to March 9, for no reason discernible to me. In the meantime, Drew has taught AJ how to play Blackjack, so she can now add and subtract numbers 1-21 very quickly. Also, when she asked for more vegetables at dinner, she said, "Hit me."

This is the kind of stuff I do at work. Yes, I have plenty of work to do.

Dear Xerox Demo,

I know we were only together for a short time, but I can’t stop thinking about you.

My love for the Konica has faded so. He doesn’t even authenticate me anymore. But you, you recognized me with the first swipe. It’s very validating that you see me for who I am.

I miss your cute staples. I miss your speedy output. I miss your secure print jobs.

I thought we made such a good team.

I want you back for good.



PTA stuff is keeping me very, very busy. Ben said, "PTA is taking over your life," and then two days later, AJ said, "PTA is taking over your life." We sold $7,000 worth of candy (we get to keep $3,500) so there have been lots of candy selling, meetings, bank trips, candy sorting, and candy distributing. And then, coming very soon - Tuesday, March 1 are the primary elections and Avondale School is a polling place. 

Did I ever tell you about our Erstwhile Election Day Bake Sale in November? Usually, the second Tuesday in November is an election day, and we planned over the summer for our bake sale. But it turned out that, for the first time in decades, there was no election. We decided to still have the sale, but move it to another, more visible location. My friend, local artist and fellow PTA mom, Bethanne Hill, made us these signs. They are currently in my office as the only of her original pieces that I currently own, but I hope to rectify that this year.

So we will be baking this weekend. We hope to do blueberry muffins and bread, but we are not sure what our social calendar will allow (sorority alumnae meeting plus birthday party). 

We recently learned that our school can't make copies for our PTA so we got a copier donated by a local business that was moving. We have to provide the toner and paper, but this will save us from late night runs to Office Depot. 

There's lots more but these are the things that occupy a lot of real estate in my brain. Fortunately, AJ gets along really well with the kids of the other board members. And she's good at selling cookies and sorting out candy bars. Real life skills, people.

The last 5 pictures in my phone that I haven't shared yet:

1. Picture day is Wednesday. Another Avondale mom on Facebook asked, "When is picture day?" so I took a picture of the note. It was quicker than retyping it. I wish the teachers all sent home notes on the same days. Also, I wish it were by email so both parents would see it and not just the backpack-checking parent.

2.  Radar looked so adorable like this I zoomed in to get this shot. He looks guilty. I can't imagine why.

3. Easter is more than a month away, but I got a small pack of these at CVS to tide me over.
4. Do you want to build a snowman? AJ's writing exercise from a while back at school. I had it hanging in my office.

5.  Have you ever wondered what to wear on Presidents' Day? I don't anymore. Thanks to Granny for these socks!

Monday, February 22, 2016


This weekend was a blur, not unlike many other weekends.

While AJ played in her room and Ben rested, I went to run errands: delivering candy bars from the PTA fundraiser, returning books to the library, dropping a coat at the cleaners, going to the grocery store.

AJ chose our lunch spot: Taco Bell. This proves how much I love my daughter. Note: The Quesalupa is pretty good for Taco Bell but not as good as their cantina bowls.

Then more stuff to do: laundry, etc.

To ward off the gloomy day, we read the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Then watched an episode of Cupcake Wars on Netflix. While neither of us likes frosting on our cupcakes (i.e., we like muffins) but it is interesting to see what people will do with certain ingredients and it's fun to guess who will win.
AJ was still a little bored, so I asked if she'd like to do an activity we had seen on Pinterest: Bathtub paint.

She noted that last time she did this, it was a different recipe.  It was 4 years ago - I barely remember.

The recipe we used this time was just shaving cream and food coloring. The link is here.

AJ did this all her self.

First, she made the paint.

 Then, she discovered that the muffin tin floated.

Then, she painted. And then, the muffin tin turned over in the water, leaving all her "paint" mixed together an ugly green color. But she painted anyway. ALL over the shower. This is part of the work in progress.

We had leftovers for dinner.

Ben worked on the dishwasher, as our dishes were not getting clean. Earlier in the week, he cleaned out a very disgusting trap at the bottom of our dishwasher. This weekend, he took the whole unit apart and checked to make sure the jets were firing. The second round of washing came out much better, but we are still wary and may end up with a new one.

This was the second home improvement project of the day. The first was to re-anchor the hooks in the kitchen. Now my purse and other bags can be hung and not just thrown in the floor. I am very happy and relieved! Our junk was blocking Radar's toy box, and though he didn't complain, that was unfair.

Sunday found us with more laundry and errands. I'm not sure I showered. We had Burger King for lunch (did you know they're going to have hot dogs there soon? Interesting). AJ had baseball evaluations and did alright for not having picked up a glove all winter. I think the coaches are aware of her focus and enthusiasm so I am sure a good match will be made. Also, I saw no other girls in the 7-8 league, but she is OK with this. Several of her friends will be playing, and I enjoyed seeing all the familiar faces at the ball park.

We delivered more fundraiser candy bars and stopped by to see Nana and Granddaddy for a few minutes. Then we went to the grocery store (again) because I had forgotten eggs and Diet Dr. Pepper. One of these items is essential to life in our house. If we have Diet Dr. Pepper and dog food, we can get through anything. And in a pinch, Radar can eat table scraps.

We baked banana nut bread, which, AJ opined was not as good as last time.

Then, I baked some chicken and had potatoes au gratin (from a box) and a broccoli medley (from the freezer section) for dinner. More effort than usually goes into Sunday night dinner! (Rusty was out of town.)

Sunday night scrub down (including my wiping down the rest of the "paint" from the tub), more reading, and then it was bedtime for all of us. I wish I could say bedtime was going well, but it is not. I hope to have a cheerier update on that subject soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Be My Valentine

This year, Valentine's Day was on a Sunday, so we ended up celebrating the whole weekend.

On Friday, I came home to two dozen roses.

I brought home a half a dozen cookies for my two Valentines. I got Oatmeal Raisin from Insomnia Cookies, and I didn't even eat any when they were on my desk still warm from the shop.

Here's a closer up picture.

For balance, I made Roasted Tomato, Asparagus and Black Bean tacos. Pretty good, especially with some cheese thrown on there.

AJ had her party at school, but she only brought home a smidgen of candy, opting to give it to her friends instead. She didn't even bother to take the sweet little cards off the candy, so her friends' parents may wonder why they have cards addressed to AJ!

We spent the rest of the evening cleaning the house, which was an excellent Valentine's gift to each other.

On Saturday morning, we had breakfast at our house for us, my parents and Drew.  Good thing we cleaned up enough to seat them at our table! We even had room for more flowers (yellow roses are Mom's favorite).

As if we didn't have enough sugar, some friends gave AJ these shortbread cookies.

Then, after a PTA errand (that candy bar money wasn't going to deposit itself!) we had lunch at Zaxby's. After that and some laundry, AJ headed out to our appointed fun day: Manicures and pedicures at Vestavia Nails. We were so excited! I got a color called "Gimme a Lido Kiss" (seen in this review article). AJ got a similar Valentines-appropriate red color on her fingers and a gold color on her toes. (PS - No photos of her feet, in case it freaks anyone out.) She waited patiently as they finished my full-service manicure (her nails were just cut, filed, and polished) but I got heated, exfoliated, etc. Even though it is now 3 days later, my nails are still looking pretty good.
(Is it just me, or is there a correlation between making a nail appointment and then having every single nail break?)

On Saturday night, AJ went to Nana and Granddaddy's house so we could have a special date night. They had dinner and baked sugar heart-shaped cookies with red sprinkles. We went to dinner at Silvertron Café. While we didn't venture far from our neighborhood, my requirement for dinner was "a place where they have waiters." I'm so demanding. We tried to watch TV when we got home but I fell asleep. Here's a picture we took of ourselves at home before I crashed.

The light was bad and we were tired. Come to think of it, that could be the caption of any of a number of photos of us over the past 16 years.

On Sunday, we celebrated the big day. I gave Ben a CD that he didn't like, but thought was kind of interesting. And AJ and I got him some powdered-sugar donuts for breakfast(s).

I got both of them cards, featuring adorable dogs.

 For Ben

For AJ

Coincidentally, my friend Elizabeth also sent us a dog valentine.

AJ got me an adorable and useful meal-planning notepad. It is now affixed to the refrigerator and reminds me of my good intentions. Last night, enchiladas. Tonight, fish. Tomorrow night, YOYO (you're on you're own) because I have a meeting.

But the big story of Valentine's Day was the necklace. Ben got me this beautiful emerald and diamond necklace from Jared. It may be cliché to you, but to me it was more than perfect.

 He went to Jared.

Lest you think this gift-giving extravaganza was terribly one-sided (which it was), I got Ben a BlackBerry.

Really and truly, mobile technology is his hobby, and I was terribly afraid that, even though I knew which one he wanted, that I would not get a good deal and he would be upset. So he just got it for himself. It's on the way. We're also getting new pillows, but we have to pick them out together.

We spent the rest of Sunday doing our usual Sunday stuff (AJ playing in her room while Ben napped and I went grocery shopping and ironed school uniforms, making phone calls to relatives, etc.).

AJ made this seasonal bookmark:

We topped off the weekend with a visit to Rusty's for dinner:

We did not get the special - that's a lot of meat!

Yes, our Valentine's Days are usually sweet but this one seemed even sweeter. Last year, on Valentine's Day, we were at my Grandma Hazel's funeral. We all know we are lucky to be here and have each other to love, and we should definitely celebrate that every chance we get.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Guinea Pig Poem

At Christmas time, Anna June kept asking Ben what he wanted for Christmas. He couldn't come up with anything, so he thought of something creative and random. He asked her to write him a poem about a Guinea Pig.

Exasperated and looking for inspiration, AJ went for help. She asked my cousin Morgan and Aunt Heidi to help her come up with something creative. Morgan texted me their draft, which AJ then presented to Ben on Christmas morning.

I was just texting Morgan about something else and found the poem, and decided it must be shared immediately.

Guinea Pig Poem
By AJ (and relatives)

I want to buy a Guinea Pig
Its butt is really big
It will have a lot of hair
Brush it if you dare
We'll buy it at the store
So it'll never be a bore
It has little ears
And will bring lots of Christmas cheers.

PS - AJ does not actually want a Guinea Pig

Saturday, February 13, 2016


This time of year at school has been extremely busy. Besides the usual regular old reading and writing and arithmetic, AJ's school has been having some other fun activities.

Due to the dedication of some teachers and parents (not me, for a change) the school is having a yearbook printed this year. Although it has certainly been done before at Avondale, it has not been done recently. This year we are expecting a paperback but full color edition of all the wonderful things the kids have been up to. The school decided to make the cost $15/copy and raise the rest of the money (the actual cost is more than $17/copy). So they've put together a string of fundraisers.

The first, last week, was Pajama Day. For the low, low price of one dollar, each kid (and teacher) could be out of uniform and wear his/her favorite pajamas. AJ loves to wear pajamas to school. For some reason, on Friday nights, she likes to wear her pink Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pajamas, so she wore those to school. Ben was at home doing an online training that day, so he took us to breakfast at Chick-fil-A before school. AJ was wary of going out in her PJs at first, but then decided it would be OK. We had a nice time at breakfast together, which is usually reserved only for weekends now.

This week, the fundraiser was a Sock Hop. The kids were supposed to bring $3/each to attend. For 45 minutes in the school gym, a teacher acted as a DJ and played all the kids' favorite songs, like the Whip/Nae Nae, Hit the Quan, Hello, and U Can't Touch This (an oldie for them). They danced and had fun, which was a nice break on a cold day.

Another school yearbook fundraiser was Candy Grams. Kids could send other kids a Blow Pop for 75 cents. AJ and I had talked about sending them to all the kids in her class. It was important to her, she told me, what the tags on the suckers actually said. I guess second grade is when you start to worry about whether a valentine is too mushy or not. But even though the teacher in charge told me the tags said only "to" and "from," AJ decided she had rather not do it. Instead she opted to send candy with her Valentines.

Valentine's Day was celebrated on Friday at school.  Last year, we sent cat and dog cards, and we had some left over. The box has been sitting on a shelf in our kitchen for a whole year. When we visited Dollar Tree last weekend, AJ got some Scooby Doo valentines, but they had heart-shaped suckers attached. So we had to tape some candy to the cat and dog valentines to be equitable. This was fine - she has an enormous stash. But because the box was sitting on the shelf and I let this be her project, it never crossed my mind that with the Scooby Doo valentines and the cat and dog ones that we would not have 18 total. I should have checked, because we did not. Instead, my old friend Pinterest supplied me with a link to free printable Star Wars valentines. We had some cards stock and, voila! Enough cards. Good enough, as long as you don't think about copyright infringement and whatnot.

Next week is hat day for a dollar. Who knows what she'll do then.

(She put her hair in braids herself, as she heard head lice was going around again. Braids are said to confuse lice, but it is also just a good idea as it keeps hair closer to the head and less likely to mingle with other kids' hair. Also, this was before the haircut but it is still almost this long.)

On top of that, the PTA is having its candy bar fundraiser. We have done very well. Next week, when the kids dismiss early for teacher professional development, the PTA moms and dads will be sorting all 6,000 candy bars for delivery the next day. There's a cash prize for the top seller, which I happen to know is not AJ. This is good, as I would likely make her donate it back to PTA - I work too hard raising that money to give it to my kid, who has everything! :)

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Little Update

January and February have flown by.

In January, our plumbing woes finally ended. Our driveway had to be partly destroyed by jackhammer but the pipes are fixed and the hole is filled in. We are glad that ordeal is over and are trying to remind ourselves it could have been worse.

Around the first or second week of January, Ben and I got hit with colds. I had a sore throat and a runny nose that went on for a couple of weeks. There was just not enough Kleenex. AJ appears to have been mostly unscathed. We carried on with play dates and appointments and lessons as planned.

We all finally seemed well until last week (2/1) I got sick with a stomach virus. Either that, or I gave myself food poisoning. But it did not last long, although I did take the day off to rest.

I'm on a month-long step challenge with my friends Jessica and Kristina. I've made my goal of 7500 steps most days, and the other days I've made up for it. That's what I've been up to.

Sometime in January, AJ started not sleeping well. We have tried all the home remedies, and I hesitate to say it, but I think she's getting better. We had a very rough patch for a couple of weeks. It was difficult to get up and get to work and want to blog when I really just wanted to go back to sleep or retrace our steps to find out what went wrong, exactly. The best we can figure is that she's just having a hard time, plain and simple. This was in our bed before school recently, when I said, "If you don't get up now I will put a picture of you sleeping on Facebook and Instagram." She did not care. We've been trying to not make a huge deal about it, but it is hard when you have a very tall child taking up your bed real estate.

Meanwhile, there's been a lot of good stuff going on with AJ that is way more fun than sleep habits.

First of all, swim lessons are over. AJ did VERY WELL. She was frustrated with herself for not doing better (i.e. mastering all the skills) but she can now swim 300 yards in 12 minutes. Her teacher told me that if she wanted to be on a swim team, she would be competitive in her age. She does not want to be on a swim team, though. She actually never wants to take another lesson. We will see about that - if she's at UAB camp this summer (and there anyway), I may sign her up for some lessons. I'd love to see her get her breast stroke down. It appears to be the most difficult thing for her and requires lots of practice.

Secondly, AJ has been chosen as one of five kids from her class to be in this year's Math Derby. In line with my wishes, the school gave out practice packets several days ago, giving the kids more than two weeks to prepare. AJ doesn't actually want to compete, but hopefully we can get past that and practice this weekend. The Derby is Friday the 19th.

Next, we have been social! We've seen lots of friends lately, even going to a Game Night party. While our game of Uno may be the longest in history (and we even had to just declare a winner since it went on past bedtime), I was very proud of AJ for having fun with kids of all ages, some we knew and some we did not know. Photo courtesy Meg via Facebook.

We've also been spending some time with our family as we can. We met up with Kym, Ken and Teygan for lunch recently to exchange Christmas gifts since we were rained out on Christmas Eve Eve. Good news - I got something for Teygan that she liked. Bad news - she already had it! Typical Aunt Laura stuff.

Last weekend, we had a bunch of things to do and were very busy. AJ stayed by my side all day as my assistant (literally checking things off my list for me) and we enjoyed each other's company. First, we went to the Crestwood Civitan Pancake Breakfast. To be fair, our friends gave us some tickets, but honestly I should have gone anyway. It was for a good cause. I would have shot a picture of the plate of pancakes, but it did not last long enough.
Also, AJ made this great piece of art at the kid station at the event:

We had gotten there early enough that we still had time to take Radar for a quick walk. I had to get in those steps and he needed the exercise!

Then we stopped by the AFWC Headquarters where the state board was meeting. The Foster House Club was having a chili cook-off and bake sale. I couldn't stay, but I decided to drop off some brownies I made to help out. I had an ambitious semi-homemade treat planned, but at the last minute went with a prepackaged solution. It was baked in my oven so it counts as fair game for a bake sale.

I dropped off the brownies and collected hugs and news from a few friends, and then headed back out the door.

It was time for swim lessons. We were actually early! I was taking pictures and AJ asked me to take one of her feet. "I like pictures of feet," she said.

Then, we went and got Ben for lunch. We drove out to Odenville to Louie's Pickles. It was great, and we came home with some "garlic hot" pickles. They should last us a while.

From there, we headed to Trussville to get our hair cut. Ben came along with us and shopped around while we got our long-overdue cuts. AJ's hair is still long enough to suit her, but I can tell the ends were trimmed.

Later, we dropped Ben off, threw some clothes in the washing machine, and went back out for more errands: thrift store, seamstress, and Dollar Tree. AJ asked if she could get a treat, so instead of candy or cookies, she came back with fake nails, which she applied the next day. They were fun while they lasted, but she realized pretty quickly that she couldn't really do anything while they were on.

The weekend moved on, but after another night of staying up late and not sleeping well, I decided that Sunday would need to be a very, very low-key day. As in, when Mom asked me if we wanted to come over to watch the Super Bowl, I said no - we needed a night in and an early bedtime to get things back to normal.

So we stayed home most of Sunday, but we ventured out to Starbucks for a late breakfast after we all slept in and discussed our pitiful at-home options for breakfast since I hadn't yet been to the grocery store. Ben and AJ both chose green juices and didn't like them, so I traded and AJ had some of my mint tea instead.

None of us drinks coffee, so we never go to Starbucks, but we had a gift card. Ben could not believe how expensive things were there, and there was a drive-through line that circled the entire building. We're not likely to be back any time soon, although the service was fine and the food was fine, too.

Ben was napping when my Uncle Tim called, needing urgent help with a computer issue, so AJ and I ate some leftovers and went on about our boring, at-home low-key day. We had plenty to do, but we weren't going to do it. This was going fine until I realized I hadn't been to the grocery store yet, although my list was eventually made. My neighbor posted on Facebook that the stores were crazy - between the Super Bowl and the minuscule threat of snow, and that it was a weekend, I sure did not want to go. Instead, I hit on another plan: go during the game. AJ did not want to go, so I took her by Mom and Dad's house so she could watch the game and I could shop. It worked great - we got homemade fried chicken tenders for dinner from Dad.

I hope this weekend is more fun and less busy!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Life Size

To show how big the boxes are from Amazon Pantry, here is a picture of my kid in a box.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Clowning Around

Anna June is learning to juggle. She doesn't have it down yet, but at least she has a costume.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Candlelight Vigil

Anna June's school let out for Christmas break on Friday, December 18.

On the evening of Saturday, December 19, a horrible accident near Birmingham killed three people and injured the other two passengers. Among the dead were two 8-year-old boys, Cardell Coachman and Jakobe Johnson. Jakobe attended Anna June's school and was in Mrs. Martin's Third Grade Class.

Anna June did not know Jakobe but we do know several children in that class. Even so, breaking the news to her was an unreal experience. A couple of days before, this Lego-loving little boy had been enjoying pajama day, just like AJ. Then, suddenly, he was gone.

Our PTA board organized a candlelight vigil at the school. Many of our community, including students, teachers, parents, family, friends, Birmingham Board of Education members and the superintendent came to support each other through this devastating news. 

It was the first time I'd ever been to a candlelight vigil. AJ and Ben decided to stay home, so I, as one of the PTA volunteers, bought some lighters and met our president at the school, who borrowed the candles from the church where she works.

I hope I never have to go to another one, especially another one for a child. It was devastating. I made my way through the crowd, lighting candles and encouraging people to share their light with each other. It was raining, and the wind under the carport where we had all gathered made it difficult to get the candles to hold the flames. I had to re-light a lot. I had to maneuver my way into holding the lighter just right and my hands just so the wind wouldn't completely negate my effort. Soloists sang "Jesus Loves Me" and "Jesus Loves the Little Children." A pastor prayed. The superintendent, principal and teacher spoke.

The accident was caused by a drunk driver, who is now in jail and charged with the three murders. The man's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.

It has been more than a month since the funeral. There are photos of Jakobe up at the school's front door. It touches me every day I drive up to the school or walk in that way. What a tragedy.

We've all been wanting to "DO SOMETHING!" because of this completely avoidable, nonsensical, awful loss of life. First of all, the teachers immediately got together and sent the family gift cards, money, and food. Then, the PTA headed up a school-wide effort to collect money for the family, and I believe we raised enough to pay for the remaining funeral expenses. It was clearly the saddest thing I could hope to do as a treasurer. This was on one of the envelopes:
The text is from John 11:33 and 35, when Jesus is mourning the death of his friend, Lazarus. It moved me so.

For myself, I can only say that the thing that I am doing is to stop joking about alcohol. I am online constantly, and there are so many hilarious jokes involving drinking. I previously jokingly sent a funny meme to the PTA officers that said we could raise a lot more money if the "Box Tops for Education" program extended to wine labels. But for me, the time has come to stop glorifying drinking. I am not likely to stop drinking, but I can stop making it seem like beer, wine, and other things that literally numb you are to be honored. It won't change our culture, but this loss has changed me. I have started thinking about families who have been victims of crashes such as these, and even those in recovery who are trying to do better. If I re-post that joke about opening a store called Forever 39 that sells wine and yoga pants, what am I telling our kids? Especially the one that looks over my shoulder?

Regardless, I hope that each of these children at Avondale, all of Jakobe's friends, becomes like those candles - struggling against the wind in such darkness, but overcoming the night with the help of the flames from those around them. May God have mercy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How Was Your Weekend?

This weekend we packed more in than usual, even for us. Here's what we did:

Friday - AJ's school and Ben's work let out early, and I worked the afternoon from home as we had the threat of inclement weather. It was snowing, but the ground was too warm in our area for it to stick at all. There were many other areas near us with much more snow, but we just missed out. We had dinner from a bag: salad and chicken. We watched The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. I totally fell asleep. AJ tells me she liked it.

Saturday - Swim lesson! Ben observed while I walked on the track. AJ did all kinds of strokes: breast stroke, back stroke, freestyle, and more. She was exhausted afterwards. We had lunch at Chick-fil-A because we had gotten a sample of their new Superfoods Salad (it's a kale and broccolini salad) and Ben really wanted more. Then we went home to get ready for AJ's play date with Lily. This was their last play date before Lily moves away this week. AJ will miss her B.F.F.

Saturday evening - dinner was baked fish with this copycat Potlatch seasoning, peas, and "roasted red potatoes with garlic." I should have known better when there was no verifiable recipe, just some text in the comment of a photo on Pinterest, but our potatoes did not roast, even though I gave them longer than it said to. Maybe ours were bigger. Either way, that one went in the "don't do again" pile.

Then we went to meet up with Drew and Granddaddy and went to the UAB Men's Basketball game. It was fantastic, and UAB extended their longest winning streak in school history by beating the University of North Texas 78-57. UAB was favored to win, but was losing at the beginning of the game, making it more exciting than you would have thought.

Of course we all cheered at appropriate times during the game, but we all screamed the loudest when the announcer said, "Rusty's Bar-B-Q is a proud sponsor of Blazer Athletics." There are 3 other big BBQ restaurants who sponsor the Blazers, one of which now has a location on campus. It's hard to compete, but it wasn't hard to find us (and our friends 2 sections over) when we were clapping and screaming because of an advertisement.

Sunday - lots of running around, including an extended trip to the mall to exchange something at Macy's, get my rings cleaned and inspected at Kay Jewelers and drop off some old glasses at Lens Crafters. Then, we went over to Samford University's Leslie Stephen Wright Center for the Performing Arts to see Opera Birmingham perform La Traviata by Verdi. Yes, we took AJ. Yes, I knew a little about the story but the company manager assured me that it was "PG" and that AJ would be alright. We knew some people in the show and I thought it would be fun for AJ to see our friends on stage. The story and the performance were fine, but I think she objected to its length: Three acts (and two intermissions) totaling just under 3 hours. Near the end, Ben was muttering, "Just die already!" We agreed that Violetta had remarkable lung capacity for someone allegedly dying of tuberculosis. And Verdi must not have known how contagious it is.

A real, actual review of the performance (the Friday night show, not the Sunday matinee) is found here.

Who else would take their kid to both an NCAA basketball game and an opera in the same weekend? Asked if she liked either one, AJ said no and then went on to describe the two events as "six hours I will never get back." I told her I'd likely ask again to bring her to a ball game next year, but I would leave the opera alone. If she wants to go again when she's older, she can ask.

We took AJ over to my parents' house, where we all had dinner and AJ stayed a while to play with Wesley, who was spending the night. Ben and I took advantage of the time to have what may have been our first date night of the year, which was spent at home watching SNL clips and doing a few chores. Still counts, though!

This next weekend is shaping up to be busy, as well, but not quite as busy. We'll see.