A Journalled Year.

This delightful kid turned eleven yesterday.

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Ali recorded her year much better than I did, so I thought we’d tell the story together.

January 2017: her tenth birthday, and when she finally allowed me to start calling her a tween.

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Also, she made sure to record her little brother’s fairly impressive abilities.

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February: She’s always up for a craft project of any kind. In fact, she may craft harder than anyone has ever crafted in the history of craftswomanship.

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She also ran her third 5K (and began feeling eerily close to me in the height department.)

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In her February writings, she took the time to express her lifelong displeasure in the Chick-Fil-A cow’s ability to spell. (She has long told me that she thinks it’s just awful that they teach little kids how to spell wrong. I did not know, until reading her diary, that she uses them as a scapegoat for her own spelling missteps. It’s fair.)

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March: She’s always excited about any adventure and more willing than ever to take risks and try new things.

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She also recorded this fairly quirky moment.

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If you can’t end a story of inexplicable mouth bleeding with TTYL, are you really tweening?

April: She’s a model oldest cousin,

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She’s cool enough for awesome sunglasses but not too cool to bury her Dad,

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And she doesn’t believe in spoilers. Even in one’s personal diary.

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May: Who needs water shoes to walk on a rocky riverbed? Not ten year olds.

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Ali finished her Alabama History project with flourish,

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Our last field trip involving standing under one of Alabama’s finest accomplishments.

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She always loves reading,

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And, when necessary to tell the story correctly, she believes in a good, solid illustration of crying and injured children.

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(And, if you cannot properly see the injury due to scale of drawing, by all means show a magnification.)

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June: She’s an angel. Especially when compared to her competition.

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She’s still 100% committed to her literal lifelong best friend, AJ.

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And she realized that she likes having a pictoral journal of herself, so is willing to pose for any picture, including holding a giant peach that most believe to actually be a giant peach-colored butt.

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Also, ants are the worst, no matter what your age – mainly because it only takes 180 seconds to go from digging up sassafras roots to being the proud owner of a cluster of ant bites.

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July: Ali decided she was going to become a woodcarver when she grew up, so Pop took her to get whittling tools (with which I managed to mortally wound myself but she uses still unscathed), and she began her career on soap, as one does.

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…Which is less dangerous than her backup careers – snake charmer,

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or supervillain.

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She also managed to record her brother’s most humiliating moment of the month,

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Along with a total stranger’s:

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August: She continued being a helpful cousin,

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A helpful photographical muse,

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And a helpful sister.

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She also recorded her once-in-a-childhood opportunity to experience a partial eclipse (I know, I know – we should have driven up to the total eclipse. I still have regret.)

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September: Ali started the Fifth Grade, which sounds super old.

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Her excitement for adventures-in-the-woods went a bit manic like mine does every fall, which was quite convenient.

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And, lucky for her father, her joy from football also grew twelve sizes. Except when she gets stung by mysterious creatures.

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She also realized The Way Things Are with Alabama Football.

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October: Our multi-weekly hikes kept her a step ahead of her friends,

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And she cracked the code to happiness.

a 10 Ali's Diary IMG_6936 2 s The definition of happiness always includes “etc.”


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She volunteered at Habitat for (Fairy) Humanity and built a house from the ground up,

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She discovered the joy of coffee (when liberally creamered),

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And she truly Became One With The Fall.

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Also, her football commentary and illustration abilities became ESPN-Ready.

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a 11b Ali's Diary IMG_6938 2 s (Although when I read the lips of angry coaches and players, that’s not usually what they’re saying.)


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She perfected the art of climbing a tree that clearly wanted to be climbed,

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She got to make a fantastic December snowman,

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And she helped me get kids to smile for Christmas photoshoots,

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Including when that kid was just simply her brother.

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Also, her nonchalant ability to move on after documenting illegal residents is a lesson to me in not sweating the small (and furry) stuff.

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January 2018: Her basketball career is flourishing.

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Our long bout of sub-freezing weather has fascinated her, making her eager for a daily adventure to experience this wild and wonderful Natural Ice.

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She is and will continue to be my eager adventure partner,

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Along with my equal-sharing partner in pants, socks, shirts, jackets, hairstyles, and very nearly height.

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I, for one, am quite excited to see where the year of eleven takes us.

The Highs and Lows of Winter.

When you live in the south, you really don’t expect the freezing point to actually mean something. To me, it’s always felt more like a guideline.

“Water could start freezing at 32 degrees.”

But no. I really actually means that water freezes.

And as such, it’s been freezing around here, so we’ve been experiencing the shocking sensation of naturally occurring ice. Who knew that happened south of Michigan?

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We’ve been meandering around town, looking for bodies of water to disturb. And the kids have been perplexed, amazed, and endlessly fascinated by throwing things at the lake and watching the lake fight back.

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(If there’s a rise in general Alabama water volume due to displacement by rocks, that’s on us.)

I’m not saying I’m doing all of this exploring out of the generosity of my heart – I’m pretty geeked out by naturally occurring ice myself. I thought ice was created by ice makers and came out of the door of your fridge in neatly uniform tapered cubes. But ice is way fancier when it creates itself.

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We didn’t exactly attempt walking on water at Oak Mountain, but we certainly considered it. And gave the lake a few good shoves with our feet to see if it was possible. It was not, but the thickness of the ice was nonetheless impressive.

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(And by the way – the most satisfying sound I’ve heard in a very long time is the unique tinkling of a piece of ice being thrown at, breaking into dozens of pieces, and then sliding chime-ingly across a lake.)


But on our second day of Arctic Alabama Exploration, we hit paydirt.

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There’s something about this fountain – perhaps its extreme shallowness – that made it perfect for an actual attempt at walking on water.

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And so, after a few tentative steps around the edges, the children indeed realized they could do just that.

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I mean, this is SERIOUSLY NOT supposed to happen in the deep south.

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But they were happy to test it out, despite the fact that my dad had just finished telling us a story about a fisherman in Virginia that fell through the ice, and upon asking the locals what they would do about it, they said, “Oh, we’ll find him come Spring – if the turtles don’t find him first.” Dad followed up his story with “Anyone who is trying to walk on ice in Alabama has GOT TO BE stupid.”

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It was treacherous.

And we knew we were taking our lives into our hands.

So naturally, we let my Dad be the first to know of our dangerous adventures.


Lack of turtles. That’s the key for ice walking.


So we shall continue our bitter cold adventures until our normal winter temps of the 50s come back very, very soon.

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But we’ll always look down and check for turtles first.

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How are you coping psychologically with the cold?

The Seven-Year-Old Silver Screen Star.

Noah turned seven today.


And it’s been a long, arduous, lifetime of work for him to achieve his (not-so-much) dream of being a television star, which also happened this week.

All because being a blogger has weird side effects. Such as your images being super searchable, and sometimes your most random image can be the very one that a Supervising Post Producer of an NBC television show is looking for.

Such is the case with this image, which I posted here in 2012.

Lederhosen Baby

I got an email months ago, asking me if NBC could purchase the rights to this Noah to use on the show Better Late Than Never. She explained the idea of the show and the context in which the image would be used, and it seemed fairly harmless to me – even if Noah would probably not be allowed to watch the entire episode (because it’s a family tradition to be a Child Star in things too indecent for children to watch – I was.)

I said sure, and what transpired were many emails, contract signatures, legalese, and sending back and forth of files.

The contract I signed stated clearly that NBC had the right to use this photo in any way they wanted – in this universe (not just this earth) – in perpetuity (or in the after-life) – and in so doing, they could speak of it any way they wanted, including but not limited to defamation, exploitation, and slander.

Seemed reasonable. Especially since they also asked for a picture of me – I’m sure to give visualization to the mother they planned to shame.

I didn’t mention this process to anyone but Chris for quite some time because I know how these types of things work. They take months to finalize, and then the whole thing gets scrapped by the Supervising Post Producer’s Producer who says something along the lines of “I think we need something a bit more airy, teal-minded, and incandescent.”, and then the Supervising Post Producer comes back to you and says “Hey I’m sorry we don’t need your image after all.”

But eventually, I received a check postmarked from Hollywood. And as I was going through the mail that day, I murmured offhandedly while never taking my eyes off the stack of envelopes, “Oh hey Noah, a picture of you is going to be on a television show.”

And because The Year of Six has held record-setting highs of contrariness, HE WAS NOT AMUSED.


“Sorry. Can’t. Got the check for it right here.”


“Actually, you will. When you’re 18 you can decide on whether you’ll be on TV or not. But for now, sorry kid.”


He stomped off in an overworked, fake rage.

That night, he told Chris about my sins. And got even more lack of sympathy.

For the next week, Noah continued to randomly remember my trespasses and would offer me a bit of sulky rage just to remind me how supremely awful I am at this whole motherhood thing.

I finally got around to heading to the bank to deposit the check. Just because I’m extra cruel, I reminded him about it as I drove into the bank parking lot. I received in return a Hulk-Like howl from the back seat. In fact, he was acting eerily like the photo that was sold…irony is lost on him.

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Then I had an epiphany.

“You know what? Any time I sell a photo of you kids, it seems like I should pay you a commission. Don’t you think?”

There was a chorus of “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” from all members of the backseat.

“How much do you think I should pay you?”

Ali: “Five dollars?”

Noah: “I was thinking ten dollars.”

Me: “Well, I was thinking a 10% commission is a industry-standard rate. And since I charged them $150 for the photo, that would be fifteen dollars. How’s that?”

“I love you Mommy I love you Mommy I love you Mommy!!!”

“Hold on though. There’s fine print in this agreement. If I pay you commission on photo sales, you have to agree to a.) never grouch about it again, b.) not complain if I tell anyone about it, and c.) not get embarrassed when it airs.”

“Okay!! You can tell TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE!!! I agree!!!”

In case you wanted to know how much a severe bout of contrariness costs to reverse, it’s fifteen big ones.

Even better, I didn’t have to fork over a single cent of cash. He wanted $5 worth of diamonds on an iPad game (usually deemed an absolute waste of money but hey – he’s a celebrity now so if he wants intangible diamonds, he can afford intangible diamonds) and he used the other $10 to buy back his Kidizoom watch from me (which he had previously pawned because he JUST HAD to have a GX Pokemon card which cost $5 and he asked me “Look around – isn’t there anything in my room I could sell you for $5??” And I was all like “Uh, no.” and he said “How about my watch? Would you take that??”, and I was so sick of him having a tiny screen on his wrist that he was always staring at that I was all like “DEAL, baby. But to buy it back you have to pay me $10.” – because I’m a Loan Shark Mother and I think it’s important to learn the pain of predatory lenders at an early age.)

For the rest of the day, he begged, “Mommy can you put me on TV more? Can I be on TV all the time? What else can you put me on TV with??”, and that night as I put him to bed, he gushed my praises again. “You’re the best, Mommy. AND IT’S ALL BECAUSE OF DARN MONEY!!!”

The world kept turning, we got busy with trips and Christmas and surgery, and we all kinda forgot about his worldwide debut.

The Producer had said it would probably air in mid-December, but mid-December has been a Dark Time for me, so it came as a total surprise when I got a text from my neighbor last night…


Turns out the episode aired last week.

…And Noah was such an integral mega-star of the show that no one even noticed him (or told us about it, anyway) for an entire week.

I pulled the show up online and, after Noah and Ali gasped at seeing Terry Bradshaw jump around naked and pixellated in the preview (Ali: “surely he’s wearing underwear!!”), I quickly found Noah’s tenth-of-a-second of fame around the 8 minute mark of the show and quickly cut it off after it was over.

Noah laughed. Then smiled sheepishly. For just a second.

Then erased his smile, got a world-weary look on his face and said dejectedly, totally forgetting our contract (because after all, those diamonds were long spent by now),

“I’m not happy that I’m famous.”

Which made me pretty happy. Because after all, it takes most actors decades to realize that very thing.

Happy Birthday, kid. Keep that solid, contrary, irritable head on your shoulders and you’ll do all right.

Editor’s note: If you’re astute enough to notice the difference in the photo and the one on the television screenshot, you also might find it hilarious that the photo they used in the show is not the one they asked for, nor the one I sent them, nor the one I signed away in perpetuity for all galaxies. Apparently the Supervising Post Producer’s Producer wanted one that was a little less screamy. And I guess that means my contract is invalid.