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…

Harry Potter Doodles

Art

Yesterday, June 26, was the anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The books are my favorite and something I enjoy sharing with my family and friends–especially with my sister Delaney. When I went away to college, I began drawing illustrations of our favorite inside jokes from tv shows, movies, songs and books on index cards for her. Some are nothing more than rough doodles, while others are sophisticated and involved a lot of time, detail and even water colors. She sent me some in return. Recently, she shared a few pages of Harry Potter references I made for her that she has arranged in a binder. Looking at them reminds me of some of the truly amusing and enjoyable moments in the books.

J. K. Rowling writes believable dialogue and has one of my favorite narrative voices, especially considering she writes in third person limited. There is so much humor in her writing, whether it’s kids in the background dancing and chanting “he got off he got off he got off” while two people are trying to have a conversation, or if it’s a case of a dwarf dressed as a baby cupid assaulting Harry and sitting on him to deliver a terrible poem. And then there is the magic of Harry Potter’s world–tables filling with food, candlesticks floating in air, secret entrances and passageways, potions and incantations, flying broomsticks, magical creatures… and, at the same time, recognizable real world issues varying in seriousness from an abundance of homework to murderous prejudice.

I’ve read the books, especially the first five, many times since I was a kid. Over the past two years, I listened to all seven audio books while painting or doing laundry. I was happy to read HP and the Sorcerer’s Stone again last month as I was working on an article for Only In Ark–link here. I like discussing plot holes and inconsistencies with Laney, but such literary weaknesses in no way diminish the magic of the books.

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.”

What’s in a Name

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…she was one of the damosels of the Lady of the Lake, that high Nenive.

Background: Garrett and I named our daughter Nenive.

People ask how to pronounce or spell it, what it means and where it comes from–“Is it a family name?”

It is, now.

Some people have tried to confuse it with Nineveh… you know, the evil town that Jonah was sent to help save. Others have thought it an alternate spelling for the name Nevaeh. Since “Nevaeh” is “heaven” backward, an alternate spelling would lose the name’s significance, a pointless naming strategy. “Nenive” is, admittedly, an unusual name–but then, I’ve never met another person with my own oft-misspelled and mispronounced name, so that does not bother me.

When an ultrasound confirmed we were having a daughter, I tacked the ultrasound photos to the wall and added a blank sheet of paper next to it. I began writing girl names I liked and I asked Garrett to contribute names, too. His suggestions were along the lines of “Garretta” and “Shegarrett,” even a French accented Garrette which I told him is not only ridiculous but also too similar to garrote.

The first name I wrote was Nenive. An elegant but unusual name, Nenive immediately stuck with me when I read Le Morte d’Arthur in an undergraduate medieval literature class. Nenive, a minor character in the fifteenth century account of King Arthur and the knights of Camelot, is an enchantress who saves Arthur’s life and traps crusty old Merlin in a boulder when he won’t stop harassing her (Merlin is depicted in my flatlay photo by a Dumbledore Potter Pal my sister Delaney made me).

I thought Garrett would reject “Nenive” as too unusual a name. To my surprise and delight, he loved it and began telling people and referring to the baby as Nenive. It almost became her name by default after that–lucky I like it!