Tuesday, March 31, 2009

On Modern Fatherhood

I love the sense of discovery that comes when you see someone else's photos of your kids, especially from events that you did not attend. This is a rare occurrence in my world, but I recently went away for a few days and left Dave to Mr. Mom the girls; he met up with our friends April and Bryan and their daughter Sylvie, and Bryan sent these pictures along from their romp in Prospect Park. My favorite picture from that morning can actually be found here, on Sylvie's blog: Dave can be seen standing up, wearing the Ergo baby carrier loose around his waist, balancing Eleri while feeding her a bottle, while Clio runs away from him. I wonder why Bryan didn't send that one along to us?

While I was away, my mom and her sisters were marveling at modern parenthood, and how much we mothers expect of our spouses in their fathering; as my mom put it, my dad and his peers "got a pass" on quite a lot, from diapering to discipline, and she would never, ever have left us alone with him for a period of four days. Obviously lots has changed in the last three decades, and with the various waves of feminist movements have come different experiments in parental roles. I'm glad that I'm neither expected to stay home in a dress, lipstick, and heels while watching the kids, doing housework, and preparing dinner; nor to forsake my kids to be empowered by a career. I believe it's all about options- ideally each parent would have the choice to stay home and raise their brood or head off to work to support it financially, whatever works for each of the individuals and the family as a whole.

At the same time, I also do believe that we are wired differently, that we can't escape nature, and that men and women do their jobs as parents a little differently. Dave is never going to remember that it's snack day a week in advance and plan to bake, but he will certainly run to Trader Joe's the morning of and pick something up; this may be a silly example, but the point is, we may have different paths, but in the end we can both get the job done. More to the point, as a woman/nurturer/gatherer I kind of want to think about snack day, and I definitely want to bake for it; as a man/provider/hunter Dave's goal is more directly about filling the need of sustenance.

As parents I would say we have both grown a lot, and I'm thrilled to have such a hands-on guy as my baby-daddy, ready and willing to get right in there with me and figure this out. Gone are the days where he would leave the house with Clio but without a diaper bag or one single supply (he always managed, somehow); here are the days when I can get out of town and return to children who are no worse for the wear. In fact, when I returned this time, Dave had managed to wrap up Clio's potty training. I'm not exactly sure how, exactly, but I have my suspicions that she was not coddled, praised, or encouraged; rather, I would venture that he simply did not put her in diapers so that, when nature called, she had no choice but to use the potty. I have learned that sometimes things are just that simple in the world of men. God bless 'em.

Clio Made Me "Breakfast"


While it's hard to beat the nutrition of a remote control or cell phone, my favorite course, which isn't actually visible in this photo, was in the pink cup: one tiny shriveled pea left over from yesterday's dinner. (I didn't sweep last night.)

Yum, yum.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Outfit of the Week- inaugural Eleri edition


Now I know this has been a less-regular feature than the title would suggest, and I know it has not been featured in quite some time, but I was inspired by the very high cuteness factor of Eleri's corduroy jumpsuit this morning. Since almost all of Eleri's clothes are hand-me-downs, I thought I would get very, very bored with the outfits; but in fact, because Eleri is bigger than Clio was, she's able to wear things that never worked for Clio. To wit: by the time Clio grew into 12-month clothes like this jumpsuit, she was actually 12 months old and July is not the best time for corduroy, even if it is hot pink and has a butterfly embroidered on it.

Thanks as always to Greta and Morgan Harrington and their mom Carrie for a lovely batch of clothes back when Clio was a baby- the gift that keeps on giving!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Overheard

Clio, what would you like to do now?

Ummm.... ummmm.... ummmm... PRESENTS!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I've Got Something to Sing About

When we recently returned to Music Together after nearly a year off, we weren't so sure Clio liked it. Sure, she no longer seemed to be afraid of the teacher, Kevin, and she was into the hand stamps at the end of class, but during class she would just sit there, sucking her thumb. When it was time to dance, she insisted on being held. When it was time for instruments, she was more interested in choosing them than playing them. But a few weeks into the session, we discovered what she was actually doing in class when she suddenly belted out one of the songs at home: she was listening.

Songs play a big role in her nighttime ritual, and since our made up series of verses to the song
Train is a Comin' (as reported on here), we've gone through many phases. Clio will request a song every night for weeks running, and then suddenly, just as I'm thrilling to a song whose words I know by rote and whose notes I can finally kind of hit, she moves on. We've been through Puff the Magic Dragon, The Rainbow Connection, This Land is Your Land, and many, many Christmas songs. I've also been reviving my favorites from grade school, and, like with music class, I finally understood the pattern of song choice when she sang All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir from top to bottom: she requests a song until she has learned it by heart, then it's time to move on to something new.

With each song, she's enamored with a particular phrase, and this becomes her title of the song: in our current repertoire,
Walking in a Winter Wonderland is "dream by the fire," I've Got Something to Sing About is "shout it out," and I Get By With a Little Help From my Friends is "key" (as in "try not to sing out of"). She recently requested the "banana" song, and as with these other key words, I was clearly supposed to know what this meant. As we drove to the airport for our trip to Minnesota, I found myself singing There's No Bananas in the Sky, Chiquita Banana, Yes, We Have No Bananas, Day-Oh, and Yellow Bird (Up High in Banana Tree). None of these was the particular banana song she intended, and as I racked my brain, I came up with something that was, apparently, even better: The Name Game. It's a stretch, but there is a banana in there. We went from Clio-clio-bo-bio to banana-fanna fo-Feleri to me-my-mo-Maddy, and on to Mommy. Clio committed this one, too, to memory, and I actually caught her performing it (to herself, in the mirror) last night while she washed her hands. A note on the first two rounds: there are two Rosa's that work at Clio's day care. Elsie and Oscar are both kids who go there with Clio.

Enjoy.




video

Monday, March 16, 2009

Overheard

Mommy, I farted.
You did? What do you say?
I like farting in my big girl underpants.

I was looking for a simple, "Excuse me," but okay, that will do.

A Quote

As part of my "getting it together" plan, I am purging. (And vacuuming! This should not be exciting, but considering how long it's been, it is.) I just found a piece of paper on which I wrote down a quote that I apparently got from the window display at a Lord and Taylor. (Amazing that I was not only compelled to write it down, but also that I had both pen and paper on me at the time). In the interest of throwing away that piece of paper, I'm putting the quote here.

to love someone deeply gives you strength
to be loved by someone deeply gives you courage

Lao Tzu
500 BC

Sunday, March 15, 2009

On the upside

One great thing about my new schedule is my ability to get the girls from day care at a reasonable hour, and get dinner made ahead of time so we can actually all eat together.

When we get home, Eleri no longer looks like this.

My favorite part of these pictures (which were taken in my absence, back in the old days) is the position of Dave and Clio's feet around the baby. Just standing around, watching her sleep, and taking her picture.
Good job, guys!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Status Update

Because I am constantly blogging in my head and slightly less frequently blogging on my blog, sometimes I am alerted to gaps in my communication. For example, after a post in December about quitting my job, I realized that I had not quite shared the part of my plan that included some kind of freelance work, and many of you were concerned about our family surviving on one salary. My most recent post about Clio interviewing at a Minneapolis Montessori begs the question whether we're moving to Minnesota.

Apparently on Facebook (which I'm still not on, though for both freelance work and a possible move I would be wise to join), you can endlessly update your "status" to broadcast to the world where you are and what you're doing ("At work;" "Loading the Dishwasher;" "procrastinating") . In a way, I both love and loathe this idea; on the one hand, it fixes you at a place in time, moment by moment, which seems potentially reassuring, if completely unnnecessary (on a related note, if someone can explain to me the point of Twitter, that would be great); on the other hand, at moments of transition, it can call attention to the fact that you feel dislodged, unsure of your status at all.

I guess my status includes such right now tangibles as "unemployed," "hung over," and "blogging" as well as more abstract stuff like "considering the future," and for some reason this impulse to label your place in mental space tempts me to borrow from movie titles, like, at the moment, "Waiting to Exhale" and "Feeling Minnesota."

So here's the deal: I'm done with my job, but keeping the girls in day care three days a week in order to take on freelance work. First up, editing a book for Creative Time. I'll be looking for other writing/editing work (in any field), consulting work at arts organizations, and whatever else might come along, so send leads my way. Meanwhile, we are considering moving to Minnesota to be closer to family and to have an "easier life" (parking, parking, everywhere!). We are also considering a short-term move to Boulder for Dave to go to school for Structural Integration. (Upon reading this post, Dave's status will change to "annoyed at my wife who just shared too much information on her blog." Sorry honey- people are asking questions!) Clio has been applied to Montessori schools in both places, and I imagine we will need to formalize our decision next month, when a contract and tuition deposit will be due.

As for the status of possibly staying in New York? I'm not sure: ask Dave.

Sorry, honey.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Another Trip to the Heartland


Clio and I headed to Minnesota (yes, just the two of us), for a long weekend necessitated by the application process at Lake Country Montessori, which called for a classroom visit last Friday. My parents were in Arizona, so Clio and I stayed with Brian, Maud, Finn, and Lucia, and while I must admit it was bizarre not to see my parents, it was fun to get another perspective on life in the Twin Cities, and Clio was thrilled to have so much time with her cousins.

She has her fist sleepover, staying on a cot in Lucia's room (until Lucia went into Brian and Maud's room in the middle of the first night to report that Clio was crying; Clio spent the rest of the night in bed with me, draping her legs over my body and getting her stinky thumb as close to my face as possible)


She enjoyed a double bubble bath (and wound up terrified by the jacuzzi jets)



And spent a lot of time simulating the joys of a three-child family, whether with Finn and Lucia or Lucia and Brooke, the next door neighbor/best friend/permanent fixture in the house (Clio enjoyed this much more than her expression in these photos might lead you to believe: the first was taken on Sunday, when she woke up with a fever; in the second, I believe she is attempting to pick her nose in peace.)



Clio also generally takes pleasure in trying out other people's stuff; Friday afternoon we had the house to ourselves, and she gave Lucia's hat, slippers, and baby stroller a test run. Again, my picture-taking was, apparently, disturbing the peace.


We did also slip away for one morning to visit Scarlett and her mom Rebecca, an expat member of my Brooklyn mom's group; in the trying-out-other-people's-stuff category, Clio had a grand time with Scarlett's dollhouse and kitchen, refusing to join the rest of us for lunch, and similarly enjoyed Scarlett's books and sliding down the seats of these classic Eames chairs. Scarlett was much more agreeable to the whole documentation plan than my own little angel.


In addition to this photo-journal, I have a few verbal developments to report. Clio always picks up quirky little sayings or behaviors when we travel, and this time was no exception:

She began calling me "Mother" (which I hate)

She confused Brooke, Lucia's aforementioned best friend, and Brooklyn, the place where we live, and insisted on calling each by the other's name

She added "that's disgusting" to her recent litany of inappropriate, oddly teen-like phrases (such as "that's nasty" and "you said butts"), all of which I was convinced she would use with some regularity at her "interview" for school; if she doesn't get in, I will remain convinced that this is the reason

She continued to use the expression "I don't want to do that plan," as in, when I told her that we were leaving for home the next day. Instead, she suggested that "now we stay here. In Minnesota." And for that, I blame Brian and Maud for being such excellent hosts, and myself, for allowing such treats as juice, ice cream, a movie, and really late bedtimes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An Inauspicious Beginning

To modify a popular phrase, Today is the fist day in this next phase of my life.
How's it going, you ask?

Well, I'm a little tired. Last night I was in bed from 11:30 to 7:30, and in those 8 hours I was awoken 8 times: once by Dave, coming home from a late night at the bar (a college friend was in town); twice by Eleri (first just talking up a storm, then to actually change and feed her); and FIVE TIMES by Clio. She wanted her blanket fixed, a stuffed animal removed, a diaper changed, one more song, and to snuggle. That one was at 4 in the morning, so no, it was not nice.

Also, Clio stayed home today. She was feverish the last two days and felt warm this morning, so, taking advantage of this new freedom to do so, I gave her the option of Titi's house or home. Guess what she chose? Actually, she chose Titi's House- until we got there and she wanted to come home. From where she proceeded to wine and cry that she wanted to go to Titi's house. Now, I shouldn't blame her- I can't seem to make simple choices these days either- but really, this new game called "I want/ I don't want/ I want" is really annoying.

To borrow another popular phrase, I guess we'll take it one day at a time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

On Being Brave

In 1992, when all of my classmates were heading off to college, I boarded a plane for Switzerland, by way of New York. I was 17. I well remember arriving at JFK airport hours before my departure was scheduled, and wandering the halls of the terminal, killing time and testing out this new sense of being on my own. I wore a floral culotte jumper so unfortunately popular in that age, a coral blazer, and, inexplicably, Birkenstocks, and carried a brown leather Coach purse; I had chosen this carefully as my armor. When it came time to head to my gate, I made the bewildering discovery that this airport had multiple terminals, and to get to the one I needed I would have to take a bus. I was told to take the red, white and gray bus from the back of the terminal when in fact I required the red, white and blue bus departing from the front. Somehow, I did make the flight, and this small incident with the buses started my journey with the knowledge that I could find my own way.

The thing that lingers with me 16 years later is how everyone told me I was so brave. As if I was going off to Paris to build a life, like the heroine of Sabrina (and countless other coming-of-age tales). In fact, my year in Switzerland was simply a year at school, just like my peers who went off to college and adapted to a variation on the theme they had been living for most of their lives: more school, wherever it may be, is still a familiar structure in which many of us can function with ease. It was living away from home that was significant, not the fact that the place I chose to do it happened to speak another language.

Now again I find people telling me that I am brave. That they wished they had the guts to quit their jobs, whether to spend more time as a parent or to pursue a passion, long-forgotten in the detritus of making ends meet, making the grade, making partner, making it here (to make it anywhere). This time, I won't have a familiar structure to ease into, and all the metaphors for what I am about to do use the cliched language of risk and adventure: taking a big leap, stepping off the cliff, heading into the unknown.

What is so ridiculous is how undramatic the events of this big change actually are. Today I moved my employee file from "current" to "past." I asked our designer to take my photo and bio off the website. I took myself off our bank accounts. I made a laundry list for the new director of operations, who will take on some of my role: I wrote things like "merge HR files" and "manage per-project insurance needs." I deleted thousands of emails with one-word or one-sentence replies.

After nearly 6 years, tomorrow is my last day at Creative Time. On Thursday, Clio and I go to Minnesota for a long weekend. Next Tuesday, I will get up in the morning, and....

This weekend at Jim and Missy's we all took a bunch of personality tests on line. Mine indicated that I am future-oriented, which is exactly the language I use when I struggle to plan for our family--when I complain about what Dave is not. For the past three months, it has been much easier, somehow, to focus on the organization's future without me, instead of my future without it. It's not so much that I feel my identity to be wrapped up in this place (though all the major milestones of my adult life have happened against this backdrop); it's more that in choosing to leave (for parts unknown, to continue the cliches), I am choosing to define my own identity. And from this moment, when it hasn't begun but it feels like so much rides on it, that shouldn't be scary, but it is.

When I was 17, I knew that my trip, while an adventure, was not at all brave. Right now, I have absolutely no idea if I am brave, or crazy, or something else--I just know that something was not working, and it was time for a change. The stakes are high now: three people's livelihoods and happiness are linked to my own, and to the choices I make. Next week, when it starts to settle in a little, I might feel relief, or I might panic. Either way, I will probably make a laundry list for myself. On it I will write such dramatic things as "make new budget," "update resume," "clean toilets," and "potty training!" and I will begin to tackle these things while I look for a way to get started on what comes next.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Making Faces


All of a sudden, Clio hit a drawing milestone: she is making actual faces, with recognizable features. This one she identified specifically as a "Happy Face"

Special Weekend Bonus

When you go to Missy's house, she takes beautiful portraits of your children, like these.









And then she even edits the footage for you and sends you home with your own CD. Even in this era of digital images, I must say we're really lucky to have so many wonderful pictures of our girls.

Weekend at Jim and Missy's



These pictures encapsulate what I love so much about staying with relatives: away from the needs of our real lives (groceries, laundry, cooking, picking up after ourselves), we get the gift of time to really hang out with our kids. Of course, the girls love it, too, and not mostly because they get to hang out with their parents.

There is the outdoors for running


The new and different toys to explore


And, in this case, the added bonus of a pet to play with

(although, this turned out not to be a bonus for Eleri, whose reactions to Riley ranged from whimper to full-on cry).


And of course there are extra people to pay attention to you, get you markers when you ask, and read you books when you're parents are too busy (or too lazy, reading their cousins' Lucky and Entertainment Weekly magazine.) Finally, there is the special treatment, like late bedtime and movies (Clio watched her very first, Wall E; and then proceeded to watch her second, Cinderella, later the same day.)


So it should be no surprise when they don't want to leave. This afternoon Clio complained that she was covered in marker, and the conversation that ensued went like this:


That's okay, you'll take a bath later.

Missy has a bath?

You'll take a bath at our house- we're going home later.

pause.

No--I don't want to do that plan.


This morning, before anyone else was up, Clio wanted to go outside in the snow flurries. We decided to walk to the local playground, but halfway there, Clio started stamping her feet and crying, I don't want to go to the playground!

Why not, you ask?
Don't be silly: she wanted to return to Jim and Missy's a wonderland far superior to any playground.

And so we did.