No Mo’ Avocado

Baby, Food

Nenive started eating avocado around 4 1/2 months of age. It was her first food after rice cereal. It took her a few tries to get the hang of eating it, but once she did she ate determinedly. One day Diane came over and Nenive watched her making a smoothie with avocado, and she (Nenive, not Diane) became unruly and demanded avocado with the belligerence of a *belligerent thing, and Diane acquiesced and fed her avocado.

Avocado was all well and good until I began sharing my bananas with Nenive. While she will happily eat her weight in banana, she now complains about avocado. I tried again this morning to share an avocado with her, which was a generous gesture on my part because I read some enticing ways to prepare and eat avocado in Better Homes and Gardens and I wanted to try one.

But I kept it basic for the baby.

And what did she do when I fed her a spoonful of avocado? First, her face fell, then crumbled, and she actually winced like she was injured. Then she stuck her tongue out like everyone's comedic and exaggerated version of "yuck!" expression. Finally she began to cough, which was both pathetic sounding and worrisome, and I actually wondered for a second if she had a newly developed avocado allergy. She'd probably like me to think so. Certainly she finds eating avocado injurious–but only since tasting banana, the little trickster.

So I trotted out the banana. I could see it in her eyes: mischief managed.

*this was my note to self to insert a good metaphor later. Unfortunately, the only thing that really came to mind was Aunt Marge in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as she drunkenly demands more alcohol (port, I think it might have been). I didn't want to compare my baby to a drunk so I left it to return to, but nothing else has occurred to me…

Chihuly at Crystal Bridges

Arkansas, Trip

We spent the day in Bentonville checking out Crystal Bridges’ new Chihuly installation.

1. This has to be said upfront: Chihuly looks like Mad-Eye Moody. No judgment, but it’s worth mentioning.


2. Austin spent the whole time holding the baby and looking for a painting he claimed resembled Delaney. Since Austin was holding the baby, it meant I was pushing around an empty stroller which both gave me a start every time I looked at it and caused confusion among and lost me the goodwill of passersby. We found the painting and he and Garrett agree it looks like Delaney, but I think it looks more like Rose Byrne. 


3. Exhibit attendants constantly took away my water cups (even empty and with a lid, from their restaurant) and bottles, even when I offered to put it in my bag beneath the stroller. Exhibit to exhibit we were divested of the means to stay hydrated on a hot day, and by the time we reached the outdoor Chihuly section we were thirsty and footsore and sought out the restroom, since water fountains are traditionally nearby. Not so! This section is not completed, and the bathroom facility as yet is limited to portapotties. Luckily, bottled water and canned soda were available at $2 each at a sanctioned food truck.

4. Apart from taking our water, the attendants were friendly. One even broke with decorum to yell up and down the exhibit hall that a deer was visible outside on the grounds. The deer was sprinting in jerky movements, not sure which direction to take in a valley beyond our glass walls. It was an odd moment–a woman standing beneath a Chihuly chandelier bellowing in an art gallery, a deer panicking against a serene backdrop, and dozens of visitors, alerted by the attendant, pressed up against the glass taking pictures.

5. The Chihuly exhibit was worth visiting. The tickets were $20 each and we had a time slot but ended up going in twenty minutes early unintentionally. The information presented on Chihuly claims he was hooked on glass-blowing from the time he blew his first bubble. His technique and style differ from other glass artisans in that he doesn’t fight but rather embraces natural influences such as gravity. After he lost an eye in a car accident he gave up actively making glass and instead now directs a team of artists.

6. Chihuly in the Forest was even better, and this exhibit, as I understand it, is available for a longer time this summer than the indoor exhibit.  Saturday nights it lights up for added effect. As we strolled paths with hundreds of other people, taking in surprising clusters of bright glass flutes, it seemed just two things were on everyone’s mind: what about if it hails, and what kind of grass is that. The hail is a real concern with the weather we have had lately, and might have again next week. I imagine both the museum and the artist (or whomever now owns the art) have insurance, but also that Chihuly’s own philosophy of art would accept damage dealt by nature rather than rail against it. As for the grass, there were actually two types, one from sod in open stretches and one from seed around trees and against the walking path and installations. Seed mats had been used in places with good results, and Austin broke into an impromptu infomercial for seed mats.

7. Speaking of grass, there was an installation of a weedy yard with mushrooms and dandelions and crabgrass (“Bad Lawn” by Roxy Paine). It was making a point of viewing so-called “weeds” for their own benefit, a viewpoint I’ve heard before and to which I can be sensitive, even though Garrett and I like eradicating weeds. Garrett said it looked like our neighbor’s lawn. He told me the other day a coworker asked him if we drive around our neighborhood spying on the lawns and he told her yes, which sounds like just a joke but then I realized I tell him when our neighbors mow and report on the type of mower and the mow job. We get a kick out of lawn maintenance… in Bentonville near Austin’s apartment, we drove by a guy mowing his small side yard. An hour later when we passed that way again, he was still there mowing the same tiny space! A few houses down a woman was tackling an overgrown yard with a pair of shears. Looked tough.

8. We ate lunch at the on-site dining hall Eleven. I had chicken tenders (easy to eat while holding a baby) and Austin and Garrett had the special, a chili cheese dog. Austin took over holding Nenive (and then didn’t give her back or put her down, the end) and she stared at his plate while he ate, finally losing patience and grabbing a handful of chili cheese dog for herself. It was pretty cute, and also a brilliant moment of clarity that La Leche League, American Academy of Pediatrics and Dr. Sears all say to look for to indicate when it’s time to introduce foods to the baby.

Alma Mater, Hail

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Saturday was graduation day at Harding, and this year was Micaleigh’s turn to graduate. Garrett and I hadn’t made a trip to Searcy for a while, certainly not since having the baby, so I was excited to return to what feels like my hometown, full of familiar faces. Every time I’m in Searcy I happily run into people I hadn’t expected to see, in addition to getting to see my sister and Garrett’s family.

Unfortunately, Garrett had to work a 12 hour shift, so I undertook the trip on my own. I already had established a hatred for the routes between Mountain Home and Searcy, but I hated them even more when I had to drive alone with the baby, especially since said baby had broken her month-long Excellence in Sleeping record to limit me to four broken hours of sleep the night before. It was a difficult 6 hour round trip, but a valuable learning experience, as all things are.

Micaleigh had been asked to sing at the 12 pm graduation ceremony prior to her own 3 pm ceremony. I joined her family in a delighted cheering section that slinked in the back of the auditorium to hear her sing. It meant I got to hear Dr. McLarty make the same speech, and jokes, twice, and I got to hear the seven-fold amen and the alma mater twice.

Despite my years at Harding, I never learned the alma mater. In fact, the idea of an alma mater was a source of amusement to me. It’s kind of silly, see. My first exposure to the concept of a “school song” was in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, wherein “the whole school bellowed” an absurd song about “hoggy, warty Hogwarts,” the tune of which is not specified so everyone sings with a different melody (the Weasley twins sing it as a slow funeral dirge, which Dumbledore conducts to a finish). So, yeah, school songs are silly, or in the least, British, which is nearly the same. As for Harding’s song, the dramatic description of the university’s excellence and romantic renderings of its campus create ungainly sentiment. But perhaps that is the purpose of an alma mater: to wax eloquent like a herald or fawning courtier. It wasn’t until I left Searcy but found myself returning for graduation ceremonies and the like that the melody and lyrics of the alma mater began to stick with me the way catchy songs sometimes do. Strangely, as I enjoy singing to Nenive and she enjoys listening to me (bless her heart*), the alma mater has been one that I’ve treated her to. I really only know a few lines, notably “from the foothills of the Ozarks,” and then, triumphantly, “Harding is her name!” Oh, and I can crow “sing the chorus! Sing it proudly! Echoing through the vale!” like Tolkien’s giddy elves.

This is to say, I enjoyed hearing the alma mater twice, and Nenive enjoyed hearing it sung properly for a change.

The seven-fold amen is a special Harding treat, sung at every opportunity. When George W. Bush spoke at Harding, he was the recipient of a seven-fold amen, as was the Duck Commander. It’s sung to send people, especially graduating seniors, on their way. When I say “seven-fold amen,” of course I refer to the song “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” It is a beautiful song and fun to sing, particularly for its conclusion: a winding traipse through a field populated with seven strung out “amens.” It’s very affecting when done correctly, but often people get lost in the amens and kind of bumble through the last few. That’s okay; it’s fun no matter how it is sung–just like the Hogwarts anthem.

Nenive enjoyed our silly alma mater (“hail to thee, beloved Hhhhhhar-ding,”), the epic seven-fold amen, and Micaleigh’s song, “This is the Moment” from Jekyll & Hyde. I’ve had the latter stuck in my head since Saturday, so I imagine Nenive will be hearing me sing it soon–too bad, because all I know of it is the title line, including one (1) key change, and a line that goes “all of my dreaming, scheming and [something] has just begun” or something like that. What else rhymes with dreaming and scheming and fits the context? Keening? Preening?

note to self: ask Micaleigh what those lyrics are

During the ceremony, Ecclesiastes 12:13 was a key verse discussed:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

I love this verse because it offers a simple approach to life, and also because it bears resemblance to one of Benedick’s lines from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing:

Serve God, love me, and mend.

It is delivered to Beatrice, giving her a suggestion for how to move forward after a serious heartbreak.

Between the ceremonies I was able to acquire a few souvenirs: a Harding onesie for the baby, a Bison tee shirt for her cousin Mabel, a HUCOP mug for Garrett and a two-year old catalpa tree. The tree had been grown from seeds from the infamous large tree on Harding’s campus, between the Benson and the art building. It’s a beautiful tree, fifty years old, with large heart-shaped leaves, twisty limbs and clusters of white flowers.


During the 3 pm graduation ceremony, a student was honored for perfect chapel attendance for four years. He had been inspired by a legend on the seat in front of him crediting a student of an earlier graduating class with “perfect chapel attendance, minus one.” The student being honored was given his own seat placard to announce that he had perfect chapel attendance, bar none. The auditorium was crazy with cheering for the guy, and Noah leaned over to inform me that it was his “lord knight.” I neither snorted nor rolled my eyes, because these types of ridiculous phrases are now commonplace from Noah.

I didn’t take many photos because I was typically holding the baby; I had to keep asking people to hold her so I could take a bathroom break. I really missed Garrett. Apart from needing his help, I thought of his ceremony two years previously when I saw this year’s College of Pharmacy graduates crossing the stage. Garrett’s parents, and Cassie, had been attending Noah’s high school graduation that day, but watched Garrett’s ceremony via livestream. They were able to watch Micaleigh sing and graduate the same way, from their computer in American Samoa.

The photos I did take were of a cute moment when Micaleigh’s two baby nieces, Nenive and Ada, gave each other a cursory pat-down; an unfocused shot of Micaleigh a mile away on stage; Noah holding a concerned looking Nenive (the audience’s cheering and applause constantly startled and disturbed her); and Delaney holding Nenive for a stirring rendition of “Doe, a Deer.” All taken during moments when someone else held the baby… and most featuring the baby.


Later, at home, I took pictures of the souvenirs listed above, plus the page of the commencement booklet with Micaleigh’s name and the macarons–oh, the macarons! I never knew I liked them before. In fact, I thought I disliked them. As it turns out, I must not have had any good macarons, because these, made by Micaleigh’s sister Hollie for the dinner party, were exquisite. For the first time in my experience, the French cookie tasted as good as it looked. There were dozens of them in different flavors, and I also learned why pistachio flavored treats is a thing.

It’s a good thing I was limited to four because I could have eaten, um… more than four.

*Note: this is the first time I have used the southern expression “bless her heart.”

Springfield with Nenive

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We took a quick trip to Springfield. I promised the princess Dunkin Donuts and shopping, but first she got to sleep in and then enjoyed a long not-that-hot bath followed by fluffy towel swaddling while we watched oldies on tv. We watched the Gracie show (I forget the name but that’s enough to go by–“Say goodnight, Gracie!”) and Father Knows Best.

In the first photo, Nenive is like, “lemme try on my new sunnies,” and then she’s like, “oh, you taking a picture? Pose.

(Since she was just a few weeks old, she stares at my iPhone when I try to capture pictures or videos of her. Catching sight of my phone causes her to go from cute and babbly and funny to suddenly serious and contemplative. So, I don’t take as many pictures of her as I really would like to, and unfortunately the pictures I am able to capture, when not blurry, are not at her best. It’s not bad, it’s just not the fun and engaging baby she often is with me. She talks to me and responds to my singing by making noises at the same time.)

It wasn’t the first time I’ve been shopping and spent more money on someone younger and cuter than I–years of shopping with Cassie had made me accustomed to that particular situation–but it was my first time shopping in stores for baby clothes, and despite my best attempts to be reasonable (the expense of baby clothes is no joke! I seriously appreciate everyone who bought clothes for the baby especially in light of how pricey these tiny duds are) I spent more than I intended.

But look at this adorable pink sweatshirt from Babies R Us!

At Target Nenive was awake for over an hour, beginning with a ten minute wait at Starbucks (worth it). As I shopped, she erupted in hiccups. I continued, nonplussed, but people around us were laughing to hear her hiccuping. They are really cute hiccups. At checkout time, she sputtered a bit, threatening to work up to a cry, and then promptly fell asleep.

Unfortunately, the promised Dunkin Donuts trip did not take place.

Palm Sunday

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This story is actually about the princess but I’ll let old Shadowthief claim the banner photo for herself and her palm branch toys.

There’s the princess. She wasn’t interested in letting me get ready for church, and once we arrived she began crying during the opening prayer and I had to step out to the cry room.

She was wearing one of Cassie’s baby dresses. Its collar kept flapping up around her face, making her look like an Elizabethan wearing a crinoline. The Vera Bradley shoes were a gift from her cousin Mabel.

We returned to the auditorium for the song before the sermon–it was “Blessed Jesus Hold My Hand,” which happens to be one of Nenive’s favorites because Garrett and I sing it to her often. Despite Ken’s comment that he wasn’t discussing Psalm 4, which contains the root of the Children’s prayer “now I lay me down to sleep,” in order to put the congregation to sleep, Nenive balled herself up against my chest and slept the whole time. She afterward allowed herself to be held.

When she’s quiet during church she’s a lot of fun to have and cuddle, but there have been a couple times that’s she’s been noisy and difficult. Once I gave her a bottle and she caused a major disturbance to the pews around us, gulping and making a big scene like she was starving, then gasping for air with a sound like a death rattle, then sputtering and coughing… I learned my lesson there.

“That Good Part”

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I’m slowly getting back my morning routine–coffee with Garrett, Bible study, yoga and writing. The baby is my ever-present sidekick so I have to either work around her or work with her. To practice yoga and write, it’s work around. So I decided to work with her for my Bible study. Her brain is developing every day, so reading to her and teaching her even though she can’t understand or respond and won’t remember is still good for her development.

I expect this pedagogical approach will benefit us both. I especially like the idea of nurturing her language skills. I have a little trouble bringing myself to talk to her when it feels like I’m just talking to myself about things that aren’t even worth saying, so this gives me something to talk about.

Today I read to her from Luke 10, the story of Mary and Martha. It’s only a few verses but still took me a while (including two diaper changes) to work through with her. I read it in NIV and KJV (shown below).

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

First of all, Nenive, “cumber” is a great word whether you’re talking about being encumbered (troubled or made difficulty for) or Benedict Cumberbatch. Second, “careful” here literally means “full of cares” as in stressed. Third, don’t tattle–talk to the person directly.

How awkward was Martha’s interruption of Jesus to the other people there? It seems like someone trying to stir up drama… I wonder how this story would have read if Martha hadn’t tattled on Mary to Jesus… surely in a small residence it would be obvious to everyone that one person is working while another is sitting. Would Jesus have said anything to Martha if she had not complained about Mary? If she had had a good attitude about serving, would that have been equal to sitting and listening receptively?

Martha could have asked Mary for help if she wanted, instead of trying to embarrass her sister in front of everyone. At the same time, Mary could have encouraged Martha to take a break and sit with her.

Why did Luke record this brief story with its abrupt ending? The story concludes with Jesus’ admonishment of Martha and there is no narrative description of Mary’s, Martha’s or Jesus’ actions afterward. Did Martha quit working and sit down in a huff and maintain a bad attitude? Or did she humble herself, quit working and sit down? Did Mary scoot over and make room for her sister on the floor, or did she gloat over her sister? Is the canoe wood, or aluminum…? Considering and discussing motives and ramifications forces me to examine myself and imagine how I would have behaved in this situation.

Fourth, and to conclude, Nenive, choose “that good part” each day of your life. That is what I do when I spend time with scripture and the baby instead of catching up on chores.

On Gratitude

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This past weekend as I neared my 39th week of pregnancy the church where Garrett and I are new members honored us with a wedding shower. Three of our siblings, a sister-in-law and friend each drove a three-hour trip from across the state to attend the shower and spend the weekend with us. Garrett’s parents and little sister also made their own trip, over an hour, to be here.

The shower was lovely; I especially appreciated making new acquaintances. The congregation with whom we previously worshipped sent a generous monetary gift, and I was so touched by the thoughtfulness of all the gifts and cards, and especially by everyone’s attendance.

To be honest, hosting six overnight house guests is not something I wanted to do this advanced in my pregnancy, but Garrett and I always enjoy having friends and family visit. They made it easy on me–bringing their own bedsheets and pillows, Delaney bringing drinks and snacks, Micaleigh helping me wash dishes and prepare our Sunday beef and barley stew and Austin cooking sesame chicken and bok choy one evening. It felt like a weekend house party and I was a little sad to see everyone go.

How blessed we are to have friends and family who will inconvenience themselves to spend time with us, and a church family near and far who is anxious to support and love us.