Nashville

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Opryland

It was supposed to be simple.

Drive to Nashville. Visit Alexa and Susan. Spoil the kiddo with a stay at Opryland, currently the headquarters of A Dreamworks Merry Madagascar Christmas, cause, you know, nothing says the holidays like Shrek inside a casino-sized hotel that made out with a mall and gave birth to a theme park.

The reality saw our little black cloud pull into Nashville with expired tags and get pulled over pretty much the second we arrived in town. With Alexa unexpectedly having to work most of the weekend, we cruised over to Opryland, and I swear to god, if they had an app for it? The man would have filed divorce papers on the spot.

I had been to Opryland once before for a photography conference, just after the holidays. The hotel was all decked out with giant Christmas trees and lights and - here's the catch - minus the 20,000 or so people that comprise the holidays at Opryland. So while I was expecting the labyrinth that is Gaylord Opryland, none of us were prepared for the multitude of Mississippi State bowl gamers, Cheer Nationals with its hordes of disturbingly painted, groomed, and undressed, dancing preteens, and most of the rest of the country that thought Christmas with two million pounds of Alex the Lion ice was the way to salute the season.

Throw in some overpriced pizza, gastro distress and an 8:30 bedtime for the four of us in one hotel room, and you've got a magical evening consisting of one screaming child, one crying adult, and another who looked like he was about to pull a Jack Torrance and run through the halls of Opryland with a baseball bat. But I meant magical in that Declan screamed repeatedly throughout the night approximately 4 feet away from his sister and not once did she wake. Not once. Bottle that shit and you could cure insomnia.

The next day proved more of the same with missed naps, aimless driving along 40 to makeup for said missed nap, impromptu car repair, epic traffic and a meltdown so tremor-inducing that we had to bail on visiting with Alexa and Susan just to get back on the road. I'm glad that Harlow loved her time meeting the different Dreamworks characters and hope she treasures the memories as we will not likely take another family roadtrip until 2020 or the coming apocalypse forces us to travel to higher ground. All I know is that we'll be getting separate hotel rooms.

Christmas Magic

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmasmagic

You ask Harlow what she wants for Christmas, and you get one answer:

Magic

Not dolls, not a bike, magic.

At the mall last month - in November and just before Thanksgiving, mind you - the eager beaver mall employees had set up a an old fashioned-looking mailbox with a letter writing station to Santa. She hustled to her seat, scribbled on the provided paper and sealed that envelope tight. But before she popped that badboy in the mail she let me proof the final version:

Santa.

MAGIC.

Harlow

Santa was gonna have to put on his big boy pants for this one.

Magic! This has been of debate for quite some time in our family, the desire to create and preserve the mystery of magic for our children but also wanting to impart some critical reasoning/i.e. not break her heart when she realizes that "magic" is not going to come sprinkling out her magic wand and send wings shooting out from underneath her shouder blades. When she was 2 1/2, we stood on the front porch, the day of reckoning at hand as she had on her tinkerball costume, her wand pointed to the sky and her impossibly huge eyes on me as she waited for the magic to kick in. She told me matter of fact-ly that she was ready to fly. I told her that we could pretend and jump as high as we could.

She burst into tears.

So did I.

But despite my fumbling, lame attempts to foster her beliefs while simultaneously debunking them (of course Santa is real! Of course monsters aren't!) at nearly five she's not ready to give up believing in magic, and I'm not ready to stop providing her with ample evidence that it's alive and well in the Sweazy residence.

Nearly everyday she finds "magic" diamonds in our yard, these sparkly black rocks she wipes off on her pants and then adds to the rock collection on the window sill (next to jar with the rock collection I started at around the same age). So Santa was going to bring a rock tumbler for sure. And a vegetable garden whose roots are visible through an ant farm-like contraption. Magic was quickly taking on a very seventies, Mr. Wizard, of the earth variety. But the kid loves some magic tricks after watching a magician perform and catching some tricks in the you tube, she would be getting a magic kit and a hat and a wand.

But what about the, you know, magic part of the magic?

On Christmas morning, Harlow made her way down the stairs, eyeing the bounty of wrapped presents and happily digging through her stocking. She was excited, but she wasn't really feeling the magic.

But then she saw the typewriter.

We have an antique typewriter that rests by the TV, and lo and behold, Santa typed her a letter. He told her that he had received her list and hoped (oh did he hope) that she saw the magic in her gifts. Oh and that he shared some of his cookies with the fairies outside by the hollow tree.

About 4 seconds later Harlow was bundled up and throwing on boots and dashing out to the tree in the yard where fairies had left her notes in the hollow of the tree.

Today there was a door in its base.

When she opened the door, she found a letter addressed to her. Caleb read it aloud - it was a scavenger hunt, a hunt that sent her all over the yard with a shovel digging up something pretty magical indeed.

Geodes.

Having learned months ago that geodes are usually only found around volcanos and caves, she was pretty thrilled to suddenly find them scattered all over her front yard. BY FAIRIES. She followed the clues and gathered them up, bringing them to the garage where we could smash them open with a hammer and some safety glasses. She was pretty dazzled by the sparkly crystals inside, and one geode in particular yielded an impressive, gemlike sparkler. She gasped upon seeing it, closed her eyes, and made a wish.

Caleb and I spent the day feeling pretty satisfied. The girl had magic tricks and the magic of the earth, la la la, and a freaking rock tumbler and a fairy-led scavenger hunt, so magic was all up in this joint as far as we were concerned. It was only around bedtime that she plopped into my lap and asked me point blank why, after wishing on the diamond in her geode, she hadn't been transformed into a real fairy princess.

I told her a story about two brothers who wished they had fairy wings. They wished so hard that they got tired of waiting and decided to invent their own way of flying, ultimately designing the first flying airplane. I told her that imagination was a truly powerful kind of magic and with hers, who knew what she would be able to dream into being.

And then she rolled her eyes at me and promptly got up out of my lap.

8 months

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

8 months

Today Declan is 8 months old.

Today he is 11 days off the boob.

And today...I am okay with that decision.

Perhaps it's because I'm on the otherside of the precipitous, post-nurse hormone drop and the guilt and yes, shame, but I truly feel okay, because our child is finally sleeping better. Well, if he hadn't hit a growth spurt just a few days after weaning he would be probably be sleeping better, but we had 2 magical nights where our kid went to sleep, woke for a bottle before midnight, and didn't stir until 7 AM. Of course Harlow, our formerly rock star sleeper decided it would be her turn to wake several times in the night while he slept, but I saw it, y'all.

There is an end to this misery.

The nursing was never miserable. No, that's me already editing my memories. But as with anything so vital and passionate and important in one's life, I mostly loved it. I will miss the way his body curled into mine, his gaze, the sweet bleating noise he made when he was hungry. I already miss the instant fix of the almighty magical boob. What else will I miss? The 10,000 or so calories I burned on a daily basis. The big boobs and the skinny jeans were a seriously awesome bonus for our marathon nursing sessions, but these too shall pass. Very, very rapidly.

And Declan is thriving, my little man. Not crawling, not yet, but so, so close. He pivots 360 degrees and can stand when you take his hands. He just smiles and laughs and screams with delight and frustration. He is mad for his sister, his handsome reflection, stuffed animals and baby dolls...because they are delicious.

Infant cannibalism is a milestone, right?

Girls

Today is my sister's birthday, and it's starting to set in that she's no longer a 25 minute drive away but starting a new chapter with her family in Atlanta. I was grateful to spend time with her over Thanksgiving, especially so Harlow could play with her two cousins. These were some of my favorite images from our afternoon in Seaside.

Happy BIrthday, lil sis! I miss you!

girls
girls

1000

Sunday, December 11, 2011

blu

Dang...this is my 1000th post!

I've been so busy with the Christmas card photo rush and general baby duty these past few months that I haven't been as present on the blog as I would like, something I hope to rectify next year. In honor of this auspicious event, I'm having a little contest. Leave me a comment telling me why you need a $25 gift card to Target, and the funniest, weirdest, whatever fits my mood best at the moment wins!

*edited to say that I will close comments at 8PM CST tonight, so keep em coming!

The Nutcracker

Monday, December 5, 2011

nutcracker

Saturday was a brilliant, child-free evening of dining with friends and watching my man rock out at The Cove. A mere 4 1/2 hours after my head hit the pillow, I was off to collect the children from my wonderful parents and endure lashing rains and thrashing children at Pump It Up!, a large warehouse of bouncy houses and slides, zero coffee, and (hopefully) vats of disinfectant.

So I was rather beat and reluctant to head back out into the elements. But I couldn't resist the opportunity to take Harlow to her first ballet.

The book, First Ballet, has been in steady rotation since we bought it for her a year ago, and it was pretty thrilling for me to take her into a space that looks almost exactly like the drawings in the book. Memphis may be lacking in many respects, but you cannot beat a more grandiose, cinematic experience than watching a performance at The Orpheum. It wasn't her first time inside those fabled walls, but it was her first Nutcracker.

She curled up in my lap and clapped and oohed and ahhed, lifting her arms to the sky to mirror the ballerinas on stage and softly singing along with the children's chorus spotlit in the balcony. Every now and again she would spontaneously hug me so hard I thought my heart might explode from gratitude. I constantly fought back tears, remembering how powerful my first trip to the Orpheum was. I sat in the balcony with my mother, afraid that I might tumble off the edge and fall into the vast galley below, but the fear quickly ebbed as Yul Brynner took to the stage as the King of Siam in the King and I.

I hope that one day when she is older, she will hear Tchaikovsky's music and think of falling snow, sugarplum fairies, and her mascara-smudged mother buying her a souvenir.

Nutcracker

Advent

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent

Every year I say I'm going to make an advent calendar, or at least buy one. I grew up with the kind with that resembled a little house, the kind with tiny, perforated windows that required mom's long fingernails to jimmy before we ripped them open. Each day brought us closer to Christmas. Each number revealed was likely one less aspirin mom needed to take to stave off the incessant WHEN IS CHRISTMAS? IS IT NOW? IS IT NOW? questions. (You know the calendar was invented by the really, really tired parent of cranky children. My theory.)

Every year I have good intentions. Every year I also have an empty riddling rack I picked up on an excursion to Napa. Every year I try to justify keeping the ridiculous heavy, so not babyproofed space taker-upper.

And then my a-ha moment! (Not the kind where I get sucked into a black and white sketched video. That would be way cooler)

Wine bottle holder = unexpected advent calendar!

A quick trip to Michaels, some stenciling and closepinning, and voila! A budget friendly calendar.

The dilemma was what to put inside them. I'm not really keen on the idea of treats or presents inside. There is little left of the meaning of the holiday beyond the gross commercial aspect, and I didn't want to encourage it anymore than necessary. Leave it to my artist daughter to happen upon an elegant solution. She sketched some holiday-themed drawings and tucked them inside the pouches. Caleb and I pledged to do the same, so that each day we will open up someone's work of art, a story, and we'll have a countdown that hopefully puts a little more love and closeness into the season.

advent

advent

Here's day 1 with Harlow's Christmas elf. And possibly an incarcerated frog.

How does your family acknowledge the holiday season?