Friday, February 29, 2008

A Chair of One's Own

We decided quite a while ago that Clio would really like her own chair. In fact, my parents were going to get us a whole kid-set of furniture (table and chairs) for Christmas, except we couldn't decide what we wanted. Do you think it's time to make up our minds?


While I admire Clio's ingenuity, I'm certain the underside of this plastic stool is not the most comfortable perch; plus, she got stuck when she tried to get out.


(As an aside, you can also just make out the antique cell phone she's playing with. That's our actual cell phone, folks. Motorolla Startac circa 2000ish. Getting a better idea of why we don't answer? Yeah, I thought so.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On Not Being Grateful Enough

It seems like there has been a lot of sad, strange news lately, and I am trying to gain some perspective.

My friend Jo's husband went into the hospital with a stomach ache upon returning from vacation; This Saturday, just 5 weeks later, he passed away from pancreatic cancer, leaving behind his wife and 18 year old son, Max.

A colleague in my building recently learned that her husband has a degenerative brain disease that has created a state somewhere beyond manic-depression or bi-polar disorder, a condition that includes emotional desensitization and a decreasing ability to remember who he is, or his family.

Both women, only 50ish, lost their life partners, their best friends, the fathers of their teenaged boys, the men they have lived with their entire adult lives. Jo did not have enough time in the passing, and can not really fathom that Graham is not coming back. Emily had a long, slow, and despairing loss, and will continue to "lose" her husband for as long as he lives--in a violent state of forgetting--and it could be a long, long time.

These are two situations that I can't begin to imagine surviving.

They are situations that make me wonder why I get so angry when the bathroom garbage is overflowing at work and I am the only one who ever empties it (I'm not your mother, people); when commuters won't let you out before trying to push into the subway car (I'm pregnant, people); and when Dave and I quarrel over the teeniest tiniest thing, and allow "fault" and "blame" and "who did it wrong" to seep into the hairline cracks between us, where I hope they won't expand, like the sapling that grows up to split the boulder it stems from.

The garbage, the subway, who forgot to wash the knives or close the cupboards- these things are petty complaints, but I suppose they are a part of life, and a part that we don't realize as petty until we see them in the light of something much more serious. There's a passage in Bel Canto, the book I'm reading now, where hostages in a bungled kidnapping in Latin America become demanding, emboldened by their restlesseness. The author writes, "but there was also this: nearly 18 hours had passed, and still no one was dead. If what a person wants is his life, he tends to be quiet about wanting anything else. Once the life begins to feel secure, one feels the freedom to complain." In our daily lives, we take it for granted that life is secure. It is too easy to take on guilt in the face of unfair death, to believe we are never grateful enough.

Still, we can learn something. Jo told me that she and Graham made it twenty years in this era of divorce because they shared such a sense of humor about things. At the funeral yesterday, most of the speakers reflected on Graham's sense of wonder, and his refusal to take himself, or his work, too seriously. What he did take seriously was his love for Jo, his pride in Max, and his belief that they were his whole life and future.

I can only hope that Dave and I can make that true for ourselves. Actually, I can do more than that. I can work to make it true.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Turns

The other night, while getting Clio ready for bed, she rediscovered the door stopper in her room. It's one of those metal coils with a rubber end that boings and recoils when you push down on it- which Clio proceeded to do again, and again, and again. Then, she sat back in the corner, pointed at me, and said "Turn!"

I must say, it's refreshing to have a toddler offer you a turn at anything, but she is certainly progressing in the sharing department.
Last weekend at the shore, there was another little guest at the Schapiros, a one-year-old named David. Apart from some gentle pushing or tugging here and there, they got along fabulously.

(Here's Clio pushing)

(And David tugging).

Clio happily shared her cool travel eat-seat with David, and David shared some awesome balls, blocks, and books about trucks with Clio. But the absolute best thing that Clio got to share was David's sunglasses.
She thought she was very cool, indeed.



And also thought the best part about sunglasses is that you can take them off and put them on. Again. And again. And again.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Down the Shore


We had the good fortune to spend the weekend in Lavalette, a quiet town on the Jersey Shore, at Marni's in-laws beach house. At first Clio was not so sure about the sand (though she was very enthused about playing in the pebble driveways of the Shapiro's street: "Rocks!" was a common refrain throughout the day); but uncertainty gave way to fascination, and we took some good, cold walks along the beach. Clio stared down at her shoes as they kicked up the sand, and tended to weave inadvertently downslope, towards the water. She never did warm up to the idea of the ocean, though. When she realized she was getting close, she would say, "No want it. No water," and insist on being carried back up the shore, to a safer distance.

Maybe in the summer she'll get into it.
(More photos to come- Marni took some great ones on the beach)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Colors of the Rainbow

I've been thinking about the possibilities of video lately- thanks to Isaac's dad, Sam, I was invited by the folks at Babble to throw my hat in the ring for a new, sponsored video blog; they were looking for a video-diary style, with mom and child both figuring prominently in the narrative. As a writer-in-the-basement-in-my-spare-time, I was thrilled by the invitation; as a mom about to expose herself (and child) to a broader public, I was less so, so I turned down the opportunity (with thanks).

Really, video is not my thing- I don't have the best eye, and I'm more about reframing a moment into something meaningful than manipulating its meaning as it's happening (more hind-sight than of the moment), but I love that the invitation made me to think differently about the possibilities of the medium. Like last weekend when I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling fan, and I could hear Clio reading books down the hall in her room, I wished I had the video camera. It was a slice-of-life that said as much about me and our family life as it shared news of Clio with friends and family.

This video is none of the above. It's straight Clio, doing her thing. Also, it is the most unflattering possible angle of me (thanks, Dave) - so much so that I almost did not post it here. For the record, here at the 5-month mark I am definitely showing, but my thighs etc. are not nearly as inflated as this video might lead you to believe. (I had a post up my sleeve about my current stats, the recent "pop," and the fact that the new baby has become really active over the past few weeks, and so on, but I guess I've sort of blown it here, in just one sentence.)

I suggest you just focus on Clio. And Marni, who looks adorable in her "Mrs. Shapiro" tank top.

video

Friday, February 15, 2008

it's a....?!

We went for the 20-week anatomy scan today, and confirmed that Second Baby Peterson will in fact have 10 toes, 10 fingers, and 4 chambers to its beautiful, beating heart.
Lots of things came back to me from the first time we did this, too; like how much the spine really got me: the idea that this creature that has bee growing (inside me!!) for just 21 weeks has so much tiny detail, so many individual parts, sometimes feels beyond comprehension. This time, the feet kind of did it, and the balled up little fists with all the metatarsals showing. (Dad, are they called metatarsals in the hand, or just in the feet?). It was also funny to be back at the hospital for the first time since we brought Clio home. Dave suggested we revisit the birthing room, but I declined.

Ayway, the ultrasound magic all got a little stalled by the process. We waited for an hour in admitting, only to be told that we could have gone straight up to Ultrasound (the opposite of what Ultrasound told me when I made the appointment). I was VERY crabby about this, partly because Dave has reformed my habit of lateness (and replaced it with lateness anxiety), and partly because I couldn't remember if this was the ultrasound that required a very full bladder, so I had provided one- but had timed it for my appointment, not for the hour long wait. So things were a little uncomfortable in the waiting room.

Upstairs, having clearly missed the appointment, we waited another hour, at which point I spoke to the receptionist about rescheduling (as I was now on the brink of missing my afternoon appointment at the office); guess when the next available time was? MARCH. (Is there a baby boom going on or what?) So we stayed. And we went through the whole ultrasound process TWICE because the Dr. noticed that the technician's dates all showed me to be, on average, 19 weeks pregnant when I am supposedly 21 weeks along, so we went back and remeasured everything.

Long story short, the more time we spent at the hospital, the more tempted I became to find out the sex of the baby, especially when the technician dispelled all myths about false identifications with stories of giving herself ultrasounds and determining her babies sex as early as 12 weeks into her pregnancy. We talked about what it would change to know: basically, if it's a boy, I would strive to buy Clio more gender-neutral clothing, and if it's a girl, I would stop worrying and go even further down the path of Pink.

Ultimately, though, I think I would be disappointed to know, immediately after being told; not because of the verdict one way or another- I don't really care what we have- but more because of the loss of having that news still out there in front of us, waiting for the great birthday reveal.

Monday, February 11, 2008

New Vocab: Chillax

Dave and I recently learned this new word. To oversimplify a lot (and perhaps to offend the sensitive while I'm at it), we were listening to some piece on NPR in the car, about an English professor teaching Shakespeare or poetry (depending on which of us you believe) to teenagers at a high school or college (ditto) in the 'hood (on this point we agree), and when describing one of the characters, a student says something along the lines of "you know, he's all chillax."

Chillax.
Let's just contemplate that for a moment. (I feel as old and white as William Safire right now, and actually think this would be a perfect subject for On Language. Incidentally, his most recent piece refers to the origins of the terms blog and blogger- a tidy little connection I was not expecting when I linked to it!). Anyway, the girl had to explain to the professor that chillax was a contraction for chill and relax(ed), and that basically by combining the two synonyms, you emphasize both.

We think this photo of Clio illustrates the concept beautifully.

The Making of a Sports Fan?

I know, I know, where have all the pictures gone? Who wants to read all these words when they can look at adorable or hilarious pictures of Clio?

For various technical reasons, we've been on a touch of a photo-taking hiatus, but I've got a few for you today. And, bonus: I'll get all historical on you, too.


Now, we all know that Superbowl Sunday is, like, a huge deal for most men, everywhere. And this year, New York happened to be playing. To be clear, Dave and I were not watching in support of the Giants because they are the New York team, but instead because they were the major underdogs, playing against big cheating jerks. (As Dave put it, the Patriots are like the Yankees; and guess what? We hate the Yankees. We boooooo the Yankees.) So, big game; even bigger than usual. (And the commercials did not fail to disappoint for once! Did you all see the Justin Timberlake Pepsi ads? Or, maybe it was Coke... I guess if I can't remember, that's a commercial that is disappointing someone- like the brand strategists who put it together).


Anyway. Any of you with small children who "aren't allowed to watch television" may have noticed, as we did, that the game started a bit inconveniently early. So, here's Dave, "reading" to Clio while actually watching the game.
And getting caught in the act.


And, flashback to July 9, 2006 when Clio, a mere 4 days old, got a nice warm place to sleep while her Dad watched the world cup finals.

And got caught in the act.


She doesn't actually seem too interested in sports at this point. If Dora played football, that might be another story....

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Cooking, A Tribute

I don't quite know what to do with myself these days. I am cooking a lot.

This weekend I have already made sausage tortellini soup, waffles from scratch, taco-skillet pie, grilled chicken with baked southwestern squash, carrot-raisin salad with cumin vinaigrette; tomorrow I will bake a ham, and plan the order of things for the week: curried lentils with butternut squash, spinach risotto, tofu and green beans with peanuts, glazed salmon with avocodo-jicama salad, and countless other meals. The refrigerator is stocked to overflowing.

Dave's Mom's freezer is always filled with old yogurt cartons re-purposed for food storage, neatly labeled with the item and date: fresh blueberries, italian beef, stewed asparagus. She can scallop anything: corn, tomatoes, potatoes with ham. Whenever Dave goes home, she makes lemon sugar cookies; for younger brother Derek, they're molasses. She brings me my favorite biscotti whenever we see each other, and mails it on special occasions. Every meal ends with dessert: rum cake, homemade ice cream, cherry cobbler. (Needless to say, Barb gave Dave his metabolism; the two are built just a like.) When we returned home from Thanksgiving in Morrison, I found in the mail a set of recipe cards with a half-dozen of my favorites from her repertoire; I have adopted them whole-heartedly, with thanks.

Right now, Barb is in the hospital, recovering from major surgery to remove a malignant tumor. The tumor, discovered during a massage- a rare moment of treating herself- was the size of a grapefruit. The Doctors believe they know where the cancer came from; they believe they got it all. We believe she will be just fine. Today, Barb is moving around her hospital room in Iowa, dialing down the pain medication and, I imagine, steeling herself for recovery.

There is an overwhelming sense of impotence when your husband's mother is ill, and you are more than 2,000 miles away. I've seen Barb spend so much time planning for, preparing, serving, and cleaning up after meals for her family, I wonder what it will be like while she is unable to do so; when, in fact, she will need help. This planning, preparing, serving, and cleaning up after is the familiar shape of my recent days, and I wish I could be doing it for her. Instead, I do it for my little family, feeding them to the brink of our refrigerator, right up to the edges of comfort and safety, but I think I am cooking for her.

One thing that Dave was able to do from this distance was to set up a Netflix account for her, and to make the first few selections. She has enjoyed the first seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development, as well as the movie Little Miss Sunshine. It is impossible to imagine Barb sitting still for the length of time necessary to accomplish that much watching, but I try, because I believe it's good for her. She said to David tonight that she wonders when she lost the time to watch movies- that it is something she always loved doing.

Maybe, if I find a way to satisfy whatever urge I have to help Barb, even so far away; maybe, when we know she is safe and healthy, I, too, will reevaluate. Because I confront the desire every day to do everything for the family I love; to follow, in that way, in the footsteps of my own mother and my mother-in-law, but I'd like to learn from them not to lose myself in the effort.

Someday soon, I'll order in, and go out to do something fun, just for myself. Okay, not just for myself, but also for Barb. Better yet, we'll go again to get our nails done together.

Sometimes it takes the greatest strength to put yourself first.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Montessori Misadventure

On Sunday, Clio went to "interview" at Brooklyn Heights Montessori, the school we hope she will attend two days a week next year. The date has been in the calendar for months, but somehow, with the mad scramble we undertook, you'd think we were snuck in on a last minute cancellation or something.

Let's see, where did the fun begin? Oh yes, when Clio sprouted a fever the night before her appointment, and I, home alone, gave her some tylenol, put her to bed, and crossed my fingers. Around 4am I woke from a bad dream- and realized that I was still home alone. So the real fun began when my husband came home at 5am from a night out with one of the dads we know (thanks, Matt!). We had previously agreed that Dave would take Clio to the interview, as she tends to be less clingy with him; at 5am, I found myself recalculating all of these plans.

Well, Clio woke fever-free (but has been asking for "medcin" all week- damn if that tylenol isn't the closest to candy Clio's ever come), and Dave did a miraculous job of recovering from his short night's sleep, and the two of them got all bundled off to make it to the 10am appointment nice and early, the way Dave insists things must be.

Except that we remembered that, the previous afternoon, Dave had discovered the car with a dead battery. Turns out someone had forgotten to turn the lights off when she was bundling a toddler and many bags from Target into the house in the rain. (Did I mention that I am just now remembering how forgetful pregnancy can make you?) So they called a car service, and Dave hooked our car up to his motorcycle battery charger in the meantime. (Seemed like a good idea to be chauffered and not to deal with parking on the other end, anyway).

So off they went, only to discover that the appointment was not at 10 but 10:30 (I must have put it in my calendar for the time we needed to leave the house, just to be sure), so there Dave was with 45 minutes and a toddler on his hands. The admissions lady was nice enough to offer that Dave could just wait in the school, but after he perched Clio on a high bench and she face-planted into the ground, resulting in wailing and blood, he thought it best to head out and find the nearest park. Which he did, and Clio apparently had a very lovely time. Dave, however, was somewhat soggy, as Clio's sippy cup had poured everywhere while he was separating her face from the floor.

The miracle of the day is that somewhere in all of this, Dave called me from the cell phone he had managed not only to charge but to bring with him and turn on (!!!!) in order to tell me he would be home later than expected, and not to worry (!!!!!!!). (And while we were talking, did I think I could change the voltage on the battery charger from high to low, seeing as how things were taking longer than planned).

They arrived home in one piece, with Clio starving for cereal, which I had sent along in the diaper bag but which Dave had left at the school (or in the car service or park) in the scramble.

At some point in the afternoon, I remembered to ask how the interview had gone.
Dave smiled at me and said, "she killed it."

Performing under pressure already? That's my girl.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hormonal

It's no surprise that being pregnant makes one a tad, well, emotional. Your hormones are raging, your body is changing, you're subject to all kinds of indignities- the delicate sense of smell, the loss of memory, the dropsies- it can all leave you feeling a bit, how shall we say... off.

Last night I realized I have a very particular emotional afflicition. It's no secret that I'm a weepy wendy, but while pregnant my heart swells even more than usual at the notion of people having a shot at realizing their dreams; and going one step further, I get all veclempt when they're lovingly supported in their quest. So, I tend to mist up as singers are handed a golden ticket on American Idol (especially the single parents, last-chancers, and anyone in recovery from anything), but the tears really start to roll when they bust through those double doors and their families and friends jump up and down and tackle them and scream and cry for joy. And last night, when Eli Manning took a wild-card underdog team and turned a record-making game around against the undefeated Patriots seeking to make history, needless to say I was a little weepy. But when they cut to big brother Peyton barely containing his pride in a private box, well, that's when I really lost it. I'm sure this is exactly what Dave expected from his Superbowl experience; and I'm sure he's thrilled he stayed home to watch with his pregnant wife instead of going to a party with a bunch of guys who really knew what was going on, but hey- in its way, that's exactly the kind of familial support that itches my tearducts.

(Last time around, as a comparison, I remember sobbing-
SOBBING- my way through Eight Below, that movie about the team of sled dogs that gets left behind at the South Pole when the human team evacuates in a storm- and their loyal master's unlikely quest to save them. And I'm not even remotely a dog person. And it so obviously was going to have a mostly happy ending. Marni kept looking sidelong at me like I was crazy. But those based-on-a-true story stories have an edge up, just like the single parents, etc.)

What can I say? It's an emotional whirlwind.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Eloise

Yesterday, my friend Kim drove all the way from her home in Maplewood, NJ here to Brooklyn, despite the rain, so her daughter Eloise and Clio could be reunited after far too many months apart. Here are the girls, through the "years"









Meals, Revolutioned

Speaking of lunch, I was just telling Dave how I feel that this melamine plate with 4 little compartments and pictures of dinosaurs has revolutionized my ability to conceptualize and execute Clio's meals.


(I got this little number on the sale rack at Target- with matching dinosaur cups with glitter floating in some kind of gel, no less.)

Dave thought this was pretty, um, funny, and said "sounds like a blog post to me."


Now, I know it is a simple little thing, but somehow having four compartments, each in a different, manageable size, keeps me focused on creating a balanced meal in normal, kid-size portions. And I swear, there has been tremendous improvement in Clio's eating habits in the few weeks that we've been using the miracle melamine.
The meal here isn't the best example- I prefer to have at least 3 colors on the plate (although she did follow this up with mango, which she insisted in having in three of the four spots, so there you go)- but at least I can look at it and think, protein, veggie, veggie/fruit, carb. Plus having 4 compartments is just right, because if she rejects one thing (usually one of the veggies), she's still pretty well covered for the meal.


By the way, that bite she is devouring is a Dr. Praeger's Kids Fish bite- a new favorite that I discovered at a playdate at Zoe's (thanks Statia and Peter!) The best part? You can just pop them in the microwave and dinner can be ready in 60 seconds (especially if you don't bother to defrost your frozen veggies- an excellent tip from Melissa and Peter, so thanks to you guys, too), and even the most pregnant of us can handle a toddler chanting "eat" for just 60 seconds.


Hmmmm. I've obviously given this a lot of thought. Do I need to get out more? (Someplace other than Target?)

The Bank of Clio


Now, I'm sure you're not supposed to let kids this age play with change, but Clio found some somewhere (and, okay, I gave in and emptied my wallet when she demanded "more") and spent much of the day yesterday separating coins out into some system of cups that only she can understand. All I know is I got to do all the breakfast dishes and fix lunch without being interrupted. Clio also spent a lot of time dropping coins and then retrieving them from under the table or sofa or wherever they rolled- so I figure she's getting a little indoor exercise, too. Right?