Thursday, December 29, 2011

What We Learned: Fourteen Months

This kid isn't stopping for anything these days, except for a piece of chocolate or to read a book.  He might take after me, after all!  He's taking after me in other ways as well.  He's become quite affectionate.  He will run over to me and give me big hugs, and he's even taken to cuddling.  I'm certainly not taking the hugs, kisses and loving bite on the nose.

Bennett learned that a bottle is just as good.

I learned that I surpassed my own expectations.

Bennett learned that dad can put him to bed and get up with him too.

I learned that seeing my child need me less still hurts.

Bennett learned that airplanes fly in the sky.

Sometimes that pointer finger is smarter than we give it credit for.

Bennett learned where to put his hat.

We learned he still doesn't like to put it there.

Bennett learned to wave his arms when something or someone is stinky.

We learned that we can't get the video camera working quickly enough.

Bennett learned that the best place to read a book is on my lap.

We learned that we've entered the stage of "read it again."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Walking in His Winter Underwear

It was four jam-packed days of food, family and merriment up in these parts.  The festivities began bright and early Friday morning.  We celebrated Christmas Eve Eve with a Ski Family breakfast and present opening extravaganza.  We stuffed our faces with breakfast casserole of the egg and french toast varieties.  Both deserved their own time in front of the camera, but instead you get a pile of photos of my kid in pajamas.
You know you're up early when even Grampa looks tired.
The best kind of present.
Opening up his pile of presents was so exhausting that we just packed up the boy pajama-clad and all.  He was angel in the car, sleeping most of the way to Walland.  We got there just in time to help Mimi in the kitchen.
We only had to stop him from eating the raw meat once or twice.
The most enthusiastic present opening?  Pajamas!
Mimi and Poppa put Santa to shame
Pajama Portrait
Oh look, he wears clothes!
The next best thing to wearing pajamas? Wearing nothing!
For a kid that thrives on routine and hates attention, Bennett was awesome with the new people, the new places and rolling with the punches.  I would say he was nearly picture perfect, other than the little show he put on in church.  He stole a few ornaments off the tree and felt compelled to show them off to the congregation, all the while babbling over the preacher man.  Otherwise, it was a beautiful weekend and I am so grateful we have so many beautiful pajama-clad memories to remember it by. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people!" ~Luke 2:10

Merry Christmas from our little blog to you and yours!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

His Next Thirty Years

Rocky has been coming home lately singing the lyrics to Tim McGraw’s My Next Thirty Years.  Tim may be able to embrace the levity of a new decade, but Rocky is certainly having trouble.  He seems stuck on the fact that it is the ending of an era, and not the turning of a new page. 

Perhaps it is because I have eight months before I have to face this new fate.  But I don’t see what the big deal is.  Taking stock of our immediate circumstances may be less than ideal.  The leaky faucets, the unpacked boxes, the temporary titles all leave one wondering if we’re traveling down a path to be proud of.  But Rocky has accomplished so much this decade.  He graduated college and law school.  He was named Chief Justice.  He clerked for a judge.  He bought his first house.  He met the love of his life, got married and had a beautiful son.  All of that, in addition to being the best son, husband and friend in the world.  That’s a lot to be proud of in just thirty years. 

As he stares down the line to forty (gulp), I can’t help but get excited about what the next decade has in store for him.  A taste of career success.  Maybe more babies.  A new house to raise our family.  Another European vacation or two.  Dinner parties with friends.  Time with our parents.  Love and happiness.  Happy birthday Rock.  Mwah!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

And here I thought I was finished Christmas shopping

Sandra Bullock recently admitted that she is going all out for her little boy this Christmas:

"it's gonna be a little ridiculous.  I want the photo ops to be really great because he's not going to remember it," but he'll remember it by the photos when he's sixteen and says, 'I hate you--you're a horrible mother,' I'll go, 'Do you see this Christmas?  Do you see that I got you that life-size lion?  Shut up!  Get in your room and do your homework.  I was a good mother then.'  And that's what I'm going to use.  That's my ammunition."

I bought Bennett a bear and a puzzle.  I do not have adequate ammunition to protect myself from the many errors of my ways. I better go buy him a race car AND a pony. (Also, I love Sandra Bullock a little more now than I did before.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'd Be Home for Christmas

Remember when I asked for Susan's Dream House?  Well, it wasn't exactly a nebulous concept.  I had one in mind.  It was a beautiful 1945 Colonial in my dream neighborhood of Nashville.

The home has only been occupied by two families in its sixty-something year history and the listing didn't include any images of the interior.  When I contacted a realtor about it, he said that the property "required vision."  Guess what?  I have vision.  I can remove wallpaper.  Or rather, I can hire someone who can remove wallpaper.  I know people.  Whatever that house would throw at me, I could handle it.  I have transformed a three foot wide kitchen into a show piece.  Or rather, I hired people who transformed that kitchen.  I wrote the checks once, I could do it again.

I mentally moved my little family in.  We would build a fence around the 0.84 acres for the dog.  We would baby proof the serpentine stairs  We would have custom shelves built in Rocky's office.  I'd paint my closet ballet slipper pink.  We would host epic Christmas parties and sleepovers and political fundraisers.

I just had to wait until the first of the year when I could justify floating the cost of a rental and what was sure to be a hefty heap of home repairs.  It sold.  Last week.  After languishing on the market since March, it was gone.  Sold just a few weeks before I could march myself up to the front door and tell them that I was going to raise my little boy in that house for the next twenty years.

Don't bother consoling me with the idea that the right house has yet to find me.  I have high demands.  Three bedrooms upstairs, a yard, and in a decent public school district.  Homes are being bulldozed left and right in Nashville, being cleared for developers to build two or three homes on one lot.  Other properties are mid-century ramblers, lacking the character I adored in my last house.  It just seemed like I found my diamond in the rough and this was the house I could truly make my home.

This weekend I drove by the house on my way to the grocery store and saw that the very first thing the new owners did was decorate for Christmas.  They weren't remediating mold or destroying a termite colony.  They were making my house their home.  I just hope they enjoy my pink closet and invite me to at least one sleepover.  If not, perhaps, they'll change their mind and sell it to me.  And at the very least, please don't tear it down.

Friday, December 16, 2011

He's Making a List

It isn't Bennett's first Christmas, but the little boy is a little more aware of his surroundings these days and I am very tempted to spoil this precious child silly.  But he doesn't know it's Christmas, and we have a lifetime of Christmases to buy him toys and gear and ponies.  What is a momma to do? 
Ok, so he can't spell, or write, or even hold a pen upright.  Details.  But Bennett is making his Christmas list.  It goes something like this:

Oranges, preferably with the peel still on

Toilet Paper

A magic machine that allows diaper changes to happen while standing up, maybe even while still moving!

What his momma would love to get him:
A baby doll.  We tried one out in the store and Bennett gave her a kiss.  Rocky won't let me.
A kid-size table and chairs.  Space is very limited in our townhouse.  We would have to remove the high chair or the couch to get one of these to squeeze in to our little abode.
A play refrigerator.  The big people version is his favorite toy in the house.  Again, the space issue, but he always walks away from the real one with freezing hands and a mouth full of orange peel.

What he is getting:
Don't worry, he doesn't read the blog, so I'm not spilling any secrets.
The perfect Bennett-sized teddy bear.  His dad and I were both attached to a stuffed Mickey Mouse and a Minkie respectively.  Sadly, Bennett appears to have no need for self-soothing attachment devices.  This is my last ditch effort.
 A toy that is going to poke his eyeballs out. We loved this puzzle when we tried it out at the library. It makes noise! It has moving parts! It's shiny! I ordered it online and it came with a giant red sticker that says "NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 3" Phooey. Santa is delivering it to him anyway. 

A bowl that sticks to the highchair. Bennett doesn't want it, but I need it. I can only run across the kitchen so quickly. 
Am I missing something?  Any suggestions?  What does a one year old with little space and a short attention span need this Christmas?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I've Been Good this Year

Really, I have.  Not that it matters.  I have a fear that I am difficult to shop for.  That may be because the love of my life has gifted me things like cookbooks and strawberry wine for milestone birthdays.  I have since been told that despite my hints, he will not, under any circumstances ever buy me a gift I have asked for.  Well, good, fine.  So, for the three men who read this blog (Hi Tom!), these are really lovely gifts to purchase for your significant other, or your daughter, or your dog walker.  And, I assume the other three people reading this blog might be thinking that I'm a greedy wench.  I am not.  I know that the folks shopping for me this Christmas are the types to have already finished their Christmas shopping.  Really, I am doing this out of the goodness of my heart for all the lovely ladies that have actually been good this year.
Magnolia and flower illustration no. 6688
These magnolia prints on Etsy.  I have been obsessed with these for years.  Lovely.  Kari has beautiful prints of Paris and peonies too if magnolias and bugs aren't your thing.
Pure Balance Jacket
Lulu Lemon.  I don't have time to go to the gym, but I do wake up early on Saturday and like to pretend I've been to the gym.
Diptyque - Feus de Bois Candle
Diptyque.  I am perpetually afraid to burn my favorite candle of all time.  It would be nice to keep a stock of them in the house so I could refresh my home every time I cook bacon.
Fleur de Sel Caramels
Salted Caramel. I love salted caramel.  Good stuff.  Trader Jacques has some if you're not sure you're ready to line Chuck Williams' pocket.
That House from a Miracle on 34th Street, remake edition.  You know, the one that Susan wishes for?  Yeah that one.
Customized IPhone Case
A totally obnoxious yet perfectly preppy iPhone case.  The first time you saw it you hated the girl who had one, but you secretly want one too.  No, just me?
These shoes are hot.  I could totally wear them with my new LL yoga pants and this cocktail ring.  Actually, all of Kate's jewelry would make a good gift.
I used to buy myself one of these calendars every year.  Then I stopped buying myself nice things.  Ha!
Fried Chicken and Champagne
A cookbook.  Cookbooks make great gifts!  No really, they do!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Celebrating Christmas In the South

I am not new to the South.  I've celebrated the past ten Christmases (yes ten!) with a boy born south of the Mason-Dixon.  I'm a wannabe southern lady and I have eagerly faked my way through new and old traditions such as pimento cheese sandwiches and Firefly.  However, even after changing my permanent residence to Tennessee, I feel more an outsider than ever.  This season has brought a few of those cultural differences to the forefront.  May I enter into evidence:

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen, but do you recall, the most famous automobile of all?  The Rudolph Mobile.  Have you seen them?  They are everywhere down here.  I have seen them on Minis, Subarus, Toyotas, Fordsa and even a Lexus.  This is a southern thing, no?  I figure southerners are used to strapping their bucks to their trucks, so maybe this is what you do down here? 

Bows as tree toppers.  They are tasteful and simple and affordable too.  However, I had grown up with stars or angels on my tree and had never seen a bow atop a tree ever.  That is, until my mother in law introduced me to the southern fashion.  Who knew?  This my friends, is the tree adorning the lobby of my workplace.  Is this southern too?  People do not seem too concerned with being politically correct as there are trees in city hall, local banks and other places of business with nary a menorah or mishumaa in sight. 
Maybe it's a rich person thing, but I had never heard of professional christmas light put-er-on-ers until I moved to Nashville.  They are real!  They do exist!  I have seen cherry pickers in peoples' driveways assembling private residential festival of lights.  Amazing.  Why didn't I think of that?
Now this was a real eye-opener.  Did you know mistletoe grows on trees?  Well, it does.  A parasite, it grows in wild clumps and you have to remove it before it kills the vegetation.  Sure, you can climb up the tree and get it down.  Or, you could just shoot it down with your .22 like a true southerner would do.  What inspires a seasonal smooch better than a side of bang bang?
Ho Ho Ho Y'all!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What We Learned: 13 Months

Bennett has had his hair cut several times.  I wasn't attached to the golden locks that were getting in his eyes, brushing his ears and flopping in his face.  But in the past month, his hair is beginning to curl.  I've been reluctant to trim an inch.  This past weekend I sucked it up and went to the barber shop.  It was closed.  I took it as a sign that it wasn't time to trim.  Grandma disagreed and took matters into her own hands.  Now, my baby is gone and I'm left with a someone who want's to be my man.

Bennett learned that walking is an efficient mode of transportation.

We learned he no longer needs to hold our hand.

Bennett learned to throw things.

We learned to let it be.

Bennett learned to walk away from diaper changes.

We learned that diaper changes are still a challenge.  Help we need somebody!

Bennett learned that hugs and kisses reap great rewards.

We learned that sometimes love is all you need.

Monday, November 28, 2011

For the Love of Pumpkin

To me, fall is all about the pumpkin (note, acceptable pronunciation includes, pump-kin or pumkin, NOT punkin, unless your name is Cam and you're famous for your punkin chunkin.  I juss sayin.)  I fell victim to the Pinterest/Blog world hoopla over the three ingredient pumpkin bread.  I wasn't impressed. Even Martha failed me with her Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey Icing.  It was good, but not blow your mind with fall goodness.  Then I stumbled upon a spicy, cheesy pumpkin delight.  I thought I'd pass it along as it was a big hit in our house.  

Cheesy Pumpkin Shells
Adapted from Here

16 ounces of whole wheat orecchiette (or regular old pasta shells if you leave in the South because orecchiette is apparently too exotic for Publix)
3 tbs. butter
4 tbs. flour
3 cups + 1/3 cup of milk (skim, whole, whatever you’ve got)
12 ounces of grated cheese (I used a mix of sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and parm)
8 ounces of Velveeta, cut into cubes (1/4 of a large brick, or one of the cute little ones)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbs. minced fresh rosemary
½ tsp. cayenne pepper (Do you know that down here, they just call it ground pepper?)
½ cup of breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook pasta in salted water, removing from the heat and draining three minutes less than the cook time on the package.

Melt butter in a large skillet or dutch oven or sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Add flour, whisking for about thirty seconds.  Add two cups of milk and the rosemary, whisking continuously until smooth.  Add the third cup of milk and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens, about five minutes

Turn down the heat to medium.  Reserving a handful of cheese for the topping, add cheese blend and whisk until combined.  Add Velveeta and stir until fully melted.  Add salt and pepper to taste, cayenne and pumpkin, followed by the additional 1/3 cup of milk.  Stir until smooth. 

Toss cheese sauce with cooked pasta and pour into a greased casserole dish (I divided it between two small/medium casserole dishes and put one in the freezer for later.)  Top with remaining grated cheese and breadcrumbs.  Cook for 20 minutes, or until warm and bubbly in the center.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Full of Thanks

This year I have oh so much to be thankful for.
I am thankful for heated seats.
I am thankful for my new clarisonic mia and my newly clear complexion.
I am thankful for ravioli.  Bennett now eats a real supper.
I am thankful for my dvr, netflix and the time I have relaxing with Rocky after the baby goes to bed.
I am thankful that Rocky and I are both working.
I am thankful that we no longer have to travel for the holidays.
I am thankful that Bennett is sleeping through the night.
I am thankful for parents and sisters who are so eager and willing to help.
I am thankful for long-distance phone calls from fabulous friends.
I am thankful for new friends and reacquainted friends who understand unpredictable toddler schedules.
I am thankful for a healthy little boy.  We are so lucky.
I am thankful for my funny little dog who thinks he's at least one part human.
I am thankful for the teachers at Bennett's school who love him like their own.
I am thankful to be married to my best friend.
I am thankful that my mind, heart and soul is right where it needs to be right now.
I am thankful for the big things and the little things and all the in between things. 
Happy Thanksgiving y'all!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Burnt Out

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook the other day that had me intrigued, Why Millennial Women Are Burning Out At Work By 30.  Larissa Faw wrote a blog about women of my generation who are feeling stuck and overwhelmed and underappreciated.  "They excelled in everything throughout their childhood, are making significant progress climbing the corporate ladder, but now find themselves questioning their careers, relationships and wondering, Is this what life is really like?"

Other than growing up perfect and becoming a corporate superstar, I felt like the article spoke to me.  I worked my tail off in high school to get into a good college.  When I eventually set my sights on Washington, I made that happen too.  However, when I got there I was eating beans from a can, commuting in the pouring rain and found my desk job a bore.  That's right, I found the halls of Congress dull.  Egos were big.  People were mean.  And everyone my age spent every night at the bar asking each other "who do you work for."  But I had the job I had dreamed of.  It didn't make me happy and I felt stuck.

I think the day to day drudgery of bills and alarm clocks had me confused and feeling like Washington wasn't for me.  I started pining for Nashville.  Looking back, I think the real problem is for my whole life, I have always had goals and aspirations.  I worked hard to get where I wanted to go and now I'm here.  And apparently, I'm just burnt out.  Thankfully, because of a little article, I learned I'm not the only one. Judging from the comments, tweets and shares, it's an epidemic.

Spending an evening at home with Bennett reminds me that it's not all about climbing the ladder or a big paycheck or being featured in Forbes.  There are so many other aspects of my life that make me happy and keep me grounded.  Those nights at home with a fussy Bennett also remind me how grateful I am to have things that fulfill me outside of the home too.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What We've Been Up to

We've been to the doctor three times in two weeks and had several after-hour phone calls to the nurse.  There have been falls and band-aids and "incident reports" at daycare.  On top of the self-inflicted wounds, there have been a few wounds of the germ variety.  My once healthy baby has had his first fever last week.  It turned out he had an adverse reaction to a vaccine and his little self got a mini version of the mumps.  He wasn't contagious and his twenty-four hour fever and four days with the bumps were a small price to pay for a lifetime of immunity.  We were home-bound and I missed work.  It wasn't fun handling a fussy, sad baby.  But he actually let me cuddle with him.

Rocky and I went on a date on a Wednesday night.  Our babysitter is in high demand, so we were relegated to a weeknight, but that also meant we were able to try a new restaurant and not worry about waiting for a table.  We tried City House because I had heard lovely things about the Pork Belly Pizza and their house cocktails. I would have to say it was a winner.

Beyond the hot dates, another lovely part of living in Music is the music.  Shocker, I know!  My mom, dad and I got to attend the taping of the upcoming ABC Country Christmas special.  Faith Hill, Vince Gill, Martina McBride, Rascall Flats, Hootie, Kelly Pickler and a whole mess of second and third and tenth runners-up of American Idol were there.  Ooh, and Miss Piggy.  If each musical number didn't require third and fourth takes, it would have been a lovely free evening.  At least I got some holiday outfit inspiration from Jennifer Nettles.  I thought this one would really stand out at Midnight Mass.

I also came to the sad conclusion that all of my creative brainpower is being spent on keeping Bennett giggling.  There is little to spare for Flashback Friday these days.  While I will stop short of claiming that its on hiatus, it will be more of a sporadic rather than weekly occurrence.   I suppose I just lost all but one of my blog readers.  Mom, you're still there, right?

But don't hate me, I still have cute kid photos to share.  Let's all thank Mama Snyder for the cutest sweater of all time.  Rawr.
He's thrilled.
I am this many.

Happy Friday y'all!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Flashback Friday: Stealth Sister

It's that time of year again, my dad's birthday.  Last year I had a new baby as an excuse for failing at finding the perfect gift, so I wrote a wrapped a blog post in a shiny hat and called it a day.  

Shopping is a bit difficult when the recipient is that guy who needs nothing and buys himself that book/album/computer/car whenever the mood strikes.  Every holiday, anniversary and birthday is a stressful season as my we brainstorm gift ideas for weeks and months to choose the perfect present.  Keeping the final decision a secret is of utmost importance so that particular guy doesn't go and buy it for himself.  

Once upon a time, my mom, Mary and I went on a super stealth shopping trip.  We were going to buy my dad a bike.  It was pretty exciting for a seven-year-old and a three-year-old to be shopping for a grown-up bike.  We spent all night at the store asking the salesmen questions. My mom selected just the right one and gave us a speech about keeping such a special gift a secret.  

When we got home, my dad was peppering us with questions about our shopping excursion. Who, what, when, where, why.  "Did you buy me a present?"  I said, "I'm not supposed to tell." Mary leaned over and whispered to my dad, "Shh, don't tell, we bought you a bike!"  Because, of course she did.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

First Birthday Blues

I've come to learn that first birthday parties are more for the parents than the child. It's no wonder that the internets and magazines and blogs are full of birthday party extravaganzas with high chair decorations and petting zoos and specialty cakes. As first time parents, we earned this party as much as Bennett did. I had to feed him every-other-hour for the first three months of his life. We survived ten months of middle of the night waking. We have had worry and doubt and stress for twelve straight months and hopefully a lifetime more.
I tried to keep this all in mind when I started thinking about Bennett's birthday bash. He would have no recollection of the festivities so it didn't matter if I skimped on cupcakes or favors or entertainment. We just wanted to gather with family to mark the end of our first chapter and celebrate the life of one very well-loved little boy. Well, it's a good thing he won't remember a thing because let's just say there were a few hiccups along the way.
Things weren't looking good when I called three stores looking for balloons. Bennett's Mimi got in the car and drove to the other side of town to be at the party store when they opened. All of this because Bennett I needed balloons. They. Were. Out. Of. Helium. A party store! Out. of. helium! Sheesh. Both grandmas, grandpa, Auntie Mary and I spent some quality time filling balloons with the helium tank we bought. Oh yes we did.
When the house was sufficiently filled with latex, we were able to sit back and enjoy a laid back and lovely afternoon. Several members of Rocky's family, my parents and sister, drove a few hours to join us at the King family farm for comfort food and present opening. When we gathered around to watch Bennett get excited over the paper and the bows and the trash, he didn't even care to pay the presents any attention. The boy lost it. He didn't like all of the attention and we had to excuse ourselves from the festivities.
After regrouping we sang Happy Birthday and waited for him to dive into the cake. He hesitated. I prompted him with a taste of frosting. He was having nothing to do with it. He turned his head. He whimpered. He was turning down his first taste of sugar with a no thank you. Everyone blamed it on the fact I had made a low-sugar vanilla cake. Even a couple of hours later when we tried the strawberry cake we served the guests, it was a big, uh-uh, no way, how dare you try to give me cake. I'll just take a cracker please. It makes me wonder how he could possibly be my son.

This year has been a learning process and a constant reminder that very little of anything in life is in my control. Very little goes ahead as planned. Every child is different. Balloons or presents or cake cannot make a kid happy. But celebrating this child and this year was worth whatever curve ball he could throw my way. But he better learn to like cake.