Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On Making Decisions

Saturday morning, Eleri took a return trip to the Doctor to see whether the nebulizing treatments had worked. The on-call Doctor theorized that she had Bronchiolitis a second time (it's caused by two separate viruses, and while it's not common to get them both, a child with an older sibling and exposure through day care is the most likely supect), and he cleared her for travel.

Sunday morning, she woke up less than an hour before we were scheduled to leave for the airport, and in the scramble of getting our family of four out the door, we noticed that she was "in bad shape" (as I said to Dave), but could attribute it to any number of things: grogginess, the albuterol treatments, etc. At the airport, just before boarding the plane, she had one of those poops that completely blows out the diaper, and we discovered that we had packed spare clothes in the carry on for everyone BUT Eleri. As I stood in the airport holding a feverish baby in a "dress" made from her sister's shirt, and they called us over the intercom, "Petersons, please board your plane," we had to make a decision: should we stay or should be go. It makes me think of that song: "If I stay there will be trouble; if I go it will be double." Or maybe it's the other way around? The point is the same: if we stayed and it was a false alram, we would regret missing Christmas; if we went and Eleri was truly sick, we would regret traveling with a sick baby (and possibly making her worse). In those instants when there is no time to seek help, and no help available (Sunday morning at 10am is not a time to get a quick response from the pediatrician), you simply weigh expert advice against your instincts, and take a gamble.

We got on the plane.

We didn't have seats together (we were booked in 3 seats, and the gate agent said there was "no guarantee" that we would get any together, even when I held the girls in his face, even when I pointed at Clio and said "Really? She's TWO."), and while I sat next to a claustrophobic passanger trying to keep my limp baby out of her way, my little baby who seemed to grow more unlike herself with every degree her body temp raised, I was calculating my plans to find an emergency room immediately on landing in Chicago. Somehow, though, while waiting for the baggage, she seemed to perk up, and Clio even got a few laughs out of her. At the car rental, we labored over the decision to upgrade to 4-wheel drive (total cost: $100) for more time than we'd had to decide abuot flying here inthe first plance, and then, in a white-out blizzard, we proceeded to drive to Morrison, where, it turned out, the power had gone out. Over candlelight in Dave's grandpa's house (his power had gone out more recently and was therefore still warm) we made the decision to call urgent care as soon as the phone lines came back up.

The clinic nurse sent us straight to Emergency, where the attending took one look at her and rendered his diagnosis: pneumonia. The Xray tech was called in and a service in Minneapolis confirmed: pneumonia in both lungs.

After 2 aggressive rounds of antibitoics and ongoing breathing treatments and oxygen, she's doing much better, and is scheduled to me discharged tomorrow morning. While sitting with her in the Morrison Community Hospital, I've had plenty of time to think whether we made the right choice, and whether we would have been better of staying in New York. This thinking is unproductive, and the question is unanswerable, yet I find it impossible to accept that and put it all aside. What would have been different if I had followed my gut and not gotten on the plane? My assumptions were challenged when our regular big City Doctor missed this while the small-town ER diagnosed quickly and confidently; here, Clio has the undivided attention and loving care of her grandparents while Dave and I switch off shifts at the hospital. The hospital itself, while not set up for infants, is full of a kind and attentive staff that has been as creative and flexible as you can imagine. At home, we would have had the ease and comfort of home, but a long commute to a likely crowded hospital, and no one to stay with Clio. Retrieving our luggage would have ben a nightmare, and, of course, we would have missed Christmas.

Although, that's a decision that still needs to be made. Tomorrow, we will need to decide whether to play it safe and keep Eleri home, or drive 6 hours South to meet her great grandmother, Ruth, from who she takes her middle name. Ruth is 90-something and there is the sad but inevitable question of whether she will be here to meet Eleri when we are scheduled to come back for Christmas is two years. When you are trading in emotional capital, how do you measure risk and reward? At work, we sometimes use a "quadrant evaluation" to measure impact against resource- it is a tool that takes you out of your preconceived notions and helps you see a decision from a different angle. But anyway I look at this one, I can't see the right way through.

We make hundreds of little decisions every single day, without even recognizing that we're constantly making choices. The big ones often seem more labored. Sometimes, a big decision is about opportunity; as the saying goes, when I quit my job, I closed one door to open another. But more often, it seems like big decisions are made when you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, and you have no choice but to take stock of the options and do the best you can.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Not that I've been posting much this month anyway, but just thought I'd put it out there that a little hiatus is coming. We're heading off this morning to Illinois to see Dave's family for the holidays, then I head to MN with the girls for a few days, retuning to New York on New Year's day. While I'm sure there will be many photos to share and stories to tell, internet access will be scarce or slow, and I'm hoping for a little downtime.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sing, sing a song

I'm not exactly sure how it started, but Clio and I invented a song, based on the lyric "choo choo, train is a comin'" from a Music Together song, and it is now in hot demand every night. Part of the reason she loves this song, I'm convinced, is that it has endless verses, and every time she wants to stall her bedtime (which is every nap and every night), she simply adds another verse.

When I ask her what song she wants to hear, she'll list all the verses in the particular order she'd like to hear them, which usually goes Train, Stars, Crabs, Tree, Bear, Badger, Rabbit, with some variation from time to time.

A sample verse:
Twinkle twinkle, stars are a fallin', twinkle twinkle, stars are a fallin', twinkle twinkle, stars are a fallin', don't leave me behind. Very sophisticated lyrics, don't you think?

What amazes me is that she makes her list and then remembers the exact order, even when I stumble and throw in the Car (which elicits shaking of her head and waving of her hands to stop me before I sing ONE MORE WORD. Then she reminds me where we are and gets me back on track.) For many nights in a row, she has continued to add a new verse (tonight it was Birds), and I'm very curious to see how long the list gets before she can't keep it straight. Of course, this is an experiment that's not really a winning scenario for me, as bedtime takes longer and longer, and I'm already getting a little hoarse.

When I told Dave about this song, he originally didn't want to hear it, suggesting that it just be a ritual between Clio and I. Yeah, right. Toddlers crave routine, so naturally she requests this song even if Dave is putting her to bed. He can never remember the tune, though, so his version goes to "The Wheels on the Bus." I must say, I think he has the harder tune for "inventing" new verses.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Welcome Back, Mister Nebulizer

After several weeks of slow improvement, Eleri seems to have had a bit of a backslide in health; she spent much of the afternoon at the Doctor's with Dave, being nebulized. They think it's still the brocniolitis, but we go back tomorrow to check in and make sure it's not something more severe. Next stop, a pulmonary specialist.

Poor baby.

If it's not one thing, it's another.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

So, I quit my job.

That's right, you read correctly. As the country is shaken by mass layoffs, corporate scandals, and the highest unemployment rate in decades, I quit my relatively well-paying, somewhat stable, pretty darn flexible, 4-day-a-week job.

And I feel good about it.

It's funny, I've written this post in my head many, many times over the past week, and, now that I have a little breathing room to actually write it here, I'm no longer sure what I want to say.

The truth is, the past 3 months have probably been the hardest of my life, and while I knew going into them that this would be the case, that knowledge didn't make it any easier. I thought somehow that signing on for hard would somehow diminish the hardness of it; In fact, I have been surprised by how much harder it has been than I even expected. And I have begun to realize that doing it all does not equal having it all. Because the truth is, you can't fit my job into 4 days a week. You can't grade final projects in your "spare" time and still be thoughtful about your daughter's teacher's Christmas gifts. You can't burn the candle at both ends and still expect to have the patience and sweetness that your children deserve. And you can't shoulder this much burden and expect your marriage to be untouched.

On the night of our staff and board Christmas dinner, I was talking to one of our board members about the economic downturn; he said that he felt hopeful, because he believed that in these tough times people would embrace the things that were most important to them.

On the last night of my class, one of my students showed up drunk. I didn't realize this until we were deep into conversation after the other students had gone, and she told me she thought that Deputy Directors had a bad deal and that I should be the Director; I could be Anne Pasternak, she said, I should Anne Pasternak, if only I would embrace my fears.

When I started working with Anne 6 years ago, I was a grad student named Heather Duggan with a brand new boyfriend; Now, I am a married mother of two, and I feel as if my entire adult life has played out on the stage of Creative Time. Despite the fact that we are facing a bad economy with a mortgage, tuition, and child care bills, I understand that I need take a big risk and figure out who I am again; I need to embrace what's most important to me, face my fears, and become Heather Peterson.

It's time.

Clio Encounters Christmas Decor (while dressed for Halloween)

We have a neighbor who decorates her front "yard" and chain-link fence for every season or holiday: red, white, and blue pinwheels for the 4th of July, pastel eggs for Easter, cornucopias for thanksgiving, you get the idea. Tonight on our way home from Titi's house, we came upon the winter/Christmas-scape, including a faded plastic Santa, some little skiiers, lots of lights, and a snowman that plays some kind of christmas carol. Clio stopped in her tracks, made the face that made Macauly Culkin famous in Home Alone (that perfect "O" mouth- don't tell me I'm alone in thinking this is one of the all-time great Christmas movies), and said, "I hear.... I hear.... I hear Santa snoring!"

And to add to the irresistible scene, this is what she was wearing (topped by her gold satin parka, of course.)


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Clio Discovered the Sugar Bowl

It's hilarious that this has piqued such interest: I truly meant it as the declarative sentence that it is, though I realize I'm also working in shorthand right now, and I think such a non-post post was just me, missing my blog. So allow me to fill insome background, in my super-tired, half-delusional state.

For a while now, Dave and I have been on a fool's errand, trying to keep Clio from sugar without cutting it out ourselves. From very early on, she was really sensitive even to natural sugar (you could practically time her outbursts after eating a handful of blueberries or grapes), and it seemed best to just avoid the refined stuff altogether, though the ability to do so has slowly eroded as birthday parties and other outings come into the mix. Clio went to her friend Isabella's birthday party some weeks ago, and is STILL talking about the ice cream cake.

We often have oatmeal for breakfast, and over the course of many weeks Clio caught on to the fact that we put "brown stuff" on ours (picture it: one of us sprinkles brown sugar over our own bowls when Clio isn't looking, or while "hiding" behind one of the various items cluttering up our island countertop- very honorable), and then demanding that we add it to hers. As with salt, we do a mostly-pretend sprinkle, which satisfies her sense of getting what we have, gives just a bit more flavor, and, let's be honest, avoids the incessant demand "I want it."

We also have a sugar bowl on the table, which we have, on occasion, dipped in to in front of Clio; the ensuing conversation goes something like this:

"What is that?"
"This is sugar"
"Can I have some?"

Apparently she's had enough of this answer, because the other day Dave found her with very sticky fingers and no clue as to how much of the stuff she ate. So there you have it: Clio discovered the sugar bowl.

Incidentally, we had to throw out its contents because Clio has a never-ending cold, and even I, on the craziest sweet-tooth sugar tear of my life, would not go so far as using sugar that has potentially come in contact with boogers, even if those boogers belong to my own child.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pied Piper

Clio is currently obsessed with Olivia, the books about a British Pig written and illustrated by Ian Falconer. She is particularly enamored of Olivia Forms a Band, in which Olivia and her family plan a trip to see some fireworks and Olivia insists that "you can't have fireworks without a band," then sets out to become the band herself. There is a fold-out page with a "real band," and Clio can now identify all the instruments: Tuba, trombone, trumpet, drum, cymbals, flute, drum (and baton.) Last weekend, when reading this book before her nap, I mentioned that we in fact had a flute in the house, and that perhaps I would show it to her when she woke up. Of course, I forgot all about this promise until we read the book again before bedtime, and I again mentioned that perhaps, after a nice long sleep, I would introduce her to my flute. Sure enough, the next day she remembered, and I pulled it out of its case and dug up some music and demonstrated how to play.

(I also remembered that, much like all of our cameras, my first flute was a hand-me-down from my aunt Missy, who gave me her old when when she upgraded; I was seven or eight, and I think she must have been in college, or
just out)

Clio, of course, felt that she should have a turn, but when she couldn't master actually playing the flute, she thought the next best thing was to play with the flute, which she continued to do until it made Dave too nervous and I had to take it away....

...and send him right out the next day to get her her very own Clio-ready version. Which seemed like a very good idea... until she figured out how to make it make noise. Lots of lots of noise. And as far as she is concerned, there is no need to attempt any kind of tune when you can just make a big, loud whistle.

As for the rest of us, I think this was the first time Dave had heard me play (to be clear, I haven't actually
played in years), and while I was quite out of tune and the instrument itself is tarnished and a bit unloved, he suggested that I could play for him during his showers. I thought he was being very mean, but he assures me he's not kidding.

Jingle Bells

There's a shelf above Clio's bed where we have stacked all the quilts that were made for her upon her birth, and for some reason, I long ago topped them with the growing collection of not-very-practical shoes that have been gifts along the way: the little red leather cowboy boots from a former colleague, the red satin and feather dragon-shoes Connor brought back from China, some patchwork-velvet slippers trimmed with rick rack that Bonnie sent in her Big Sister package, and this pair of Mary Janes that Brian and Maud brought back from a trip to Thailand about a year ago.
With the change from crib to a big girl bed, Clio can now access this shelf, and has become very interested in these shoes. In fact, she puts the thai slippers on before she falls asleep, and we generally find her after her nap or in the morning, still wearing them. Conveniently, they have little bells on the straps and we can hear her padding around, not unlike the effect of a bell on a dog collar.

Last night, while Dave and I were watching Top Chef in my birthday-inspired desire for a TV stupor, we heard a noise upstairs (which turned out to be a doorknob turning) followed by a little
tinkle tinkle tinkle, and we looked up to see Clio at the top of the stairs. When she saw us looking up, she dissolved into tears. I had been waiting for the day that she figured out how to get out of her room at night, and apparently last night she found her motivation: the button had ripped off the side of her right slipper, and she wanted it fixed, now. Dave and I traded smiles and he went up to get her back into bed; it was this very sweet little moment where I felt very united in the fact that we are the parents, both of us, together.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oh, Jealousy

For the most part, it seems that Clio is over any momentary jealousy she may have felt when Eleri came to town and shook things up a bit. And I must say, this is quite a feat for someone who is very interested in the notion of possession ("This is mine? Who gave it to me?" is a constant refrain in our house); even more so for someone interested in ownership who has unwittingly given everything that was once hers over to a new small person who is already hogging time and attention from the adults in the house. Take this photo.
Eleri is in Clio's car seat, wearing a sweatshirt and pants that were early gifts to Clio from her proud daddy, sporting a hat that our friend Emily actually hand-knit for Clio back in the day, and holding a rattle from Clio's playmat. This is a typical day. Clio take much of it in stride, saying things like, "when I was a baby, I wore that hat? And now I'm big." But every once in a while, it's just way too much for a two year old to take. For example: Eleri has discovered how to turn pages in a board book; so naturally, while Clio spends most of her time trying to get us to do things for her (at the top of the stairs: "Carry me!" Over dinner, "feed me!"), she is suddenly compelled to dive right in and turn every page of every book we read together. She sits all tensed up like a big cat waiting for its prey, then pounces at the very moment that Eleri reaches for the page, using her considerably superior agility to ensure that Eleri WILL NOT TURN A SINGLE PAGE.

Or how about this:
Normally, when Eleri goes into the exersaucer Clio very sweetly says "When I am a baby I go in the exersaucer?" But this morning she wanted in on that action.
Do you see an extra set of legs? Yes, you do.
Later in the day, when Clio had an intense flush on her cheeks for the second day running, I popped my finger in her mouth and discovered that she is, in fact, teething. Dave and I just looked at each other and mouthed, "Thank god."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Our Big Little Girls

I find myself playing "How Big is Eleri" lately (appropriate, given the weight scare and subsequent binge eating we've been happy to encourage); and so we have another installment in the "How Fast It Goes" chronicles.

They just keep hitting milestones. Eleri gave rice cereal a try for the first time.
She's not convinced.

Clio can turn faucets on by herself. And off. And on and off and on and off. I missed the shot, but to get the water going in Jim and Missy's guest bath, she actually had to lean into the sink and let her feet dangle above the stepstool. (And I finally got her into some warm pajamas- blanket sleepers have been outlawed, but these polar fleece separates are almost as warm- and so grown up.)

Eleri, too, is getting some action, checking out the exersaucer to develop core strength and motor skills.

And Clio demonstrates How Big She Is.

Very big indeed.

The Penchant for Pink Continues

The second photo is an outtake from a post from last October, which you can see here.

It's hard to say if Clio really loves pink, or if it's more that she just happens to have a lot of it, between Lucia's hand-me-downs, gifts from my mother, and some of my own choices, making the odds go way up that she might end up in pink from head to toe.

That said, I took her to Old Navy last weekend to pick out a winter hat and mittens. She happened to be dressed in all pink that day, too, and chose a two-tone pink polar fleece hat set. Now, it's true that I tend to be influenced by my own outfit when I shop, picking things that coordinate with what I'm already wearing; but I couldn't even get her to LOOK at the orange and green striped hat that I favored (in fact, she threw it on the ground). In the end, I enabled her pink habit by getting not only her choice of hat, but the pink fair isle version seen above as well.

Giving Thanks

Tonight, after getting dinner on the table and Eleri to bed, I ran out to the car to retrieve a bottle of wine that Dave left behind after his return from Costco. It was raining, and Dave insisted I put his gortex jacket on over my own wool one (plus some velour "inside pants" and rain shoes- hot stuff); the sleeves are about a foot too long, and as I flopped the visored hood up over my head, I jokingly asked, "how do I look?"

Clio turned around from the table and said, "Mommy, you look beautiful."

Dave took this picture today, and when I looked at it in the camera viewfinder, I said I looked funny; I didn't recognize myself.

"Maybe because your smiling," Dave said, "we haven't seen that in a while." I wish I could say he was kidding.

This refreshed Mommy is a result of the reprieve I received over the weekend. My office was closed on Wednesday, and while I did go in for a while, it was on my own time, and I had the place to myself. I also saw my Doctor for a long-overdue physical. Had lunch with a friend. Shopped (picture of me in my fabulous birthday present to myself, coming soon). Met with students about their final projects. It was a pretty low key day. And on Thursday, we continued what has been my primary Thanksgiving tradition since my freshman year at Vassar, fifteen years ago, and went out to Jim and Missy's.
Because it was a perfectly laid back weekend, in which I did very little at all (but was subject to the most fabulous full-body massage on earth, thanks to Jim and Missy's masseuse), there's not much to report, and not many pictures to share. The big news is that when I returned to Brooklyn last night, refreshed, I felt that I had gained a little perspective, and found myself ready for this last stretch of "doing it all" before the holiday break. And for that, I am thankful.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Clio is Thankful for presents; especially holiday packages from Nonny and Papa. This one happened to have many wonderful stickers (the ones above have a Thanksgiving theme) and a color-your-own T-shirt featuring Dora and Boots, as well as some great outfits for the girls.

This photo does nothing to capture how Clio actually felt about the shirt. In fact, she took it off a few minutes ago, stating "I'm going to color Dora and Boots AGAIN." In fact, she colored the back of the shirt.

Thanks, Nonny!

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'd Rather Be:

I'm a big procrastinator. It's true. Right now I'm supposed to be doing about 5 different things that I'm really way too tired to take on. So I'm looking for other things to do while sitting at the computer--ultimately making it worse because I'm not going to get any less tired--like post to the blog. If you look at the post log to the right, you'll see I'm hitting a record this month. You would think the most posts per month would fall in a month where I have nothing better to do. You would be wrong.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Apple does not fall far from the Tree

For those of you who may not have known me as a child, or even in my days of Halloween and theme- or costume-party frenzy, let's put it this way: our neighbors used to tell my mom how "impressed" they were that she let me leave the house in some of my getups, and I STILL get birthday cards about having a crazy fashion sense.

I've grown it up a lot, but I must say, I'm kind of pleased to have passed it along. And just for the record, I neither purchased most of these fabulous items (the hat and tutu/princess dress were both gifts, and the gold satin coat was a daddy special), nor encouraged their combination.

When you've got it, you've got it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What Clio's Been Up To

Wearing our shoes

Playing dress up

Building towers

Taking bites out of whole fruit (And leaving them around the house)

Finding new places to hide.

And helping. She really, really loves to help. The trick is always finding things she can do that are actually helpful!

Report Cards

Things have been all about me, me, me lately; we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

We had our very first parent-teacher conference two Mondays ago; because I went directly from there to Eleri's doctor's appointment that led to the hospital and so forth, it got all but forgotten during the week. I remember conferences with some mix of pride and anxiety; at my particular Montessori school, children were actually invited to participate in the conference, and I always felt a particular dread in anticipating them: while it was embarrassing to be discussed with your two main frames of authority both present, it was sort of delightful to have them all agree about how wonderful you were. (I was a good student.)

It's funny, planning for Clio's conference, I realize in hindsight that I made it about me, too: because we are one of the few two-career households in the class, and because we are less conveniently located to the school than anyone else, and because we don't have hired help (a Nanny) or family help, I have felt, quite self-consciously, like we are "those parents," you know, the absolute disasters who can't quite get it together. It seemed like we were always sending Clio to school with a green snotty nose or dirty socks. In the early days, I had a very hard time judging how long it would take to drive the 4 or 5 miles to school; because of the rivers of traffic and the actual canal we needed to cross, one day it would take 12 minutes, the next day 43, making us very erratic in our arrival time. Being late for drop off is one thing; then we had the babysitter incident, where the girl we hired to pick Clio up on Thursdays showed up 30 minutes late (and didn't call me), so Clio's teachers were left to entertain her after the rest of the class left.

Plus, Clio was the child with the greatest separation anxiety. I still believe that this had to do with some confusion over the nature of school: in Clio's world, you get dropped off for the whole day with a bunch of kids (day care), or you go do an activity with your parents and a bunch of kids for an hour or two (swimming, Music Together, playdates), and because the phase-in involved very short days with me sticking around the school, I think Clio simply placed it in this second category. Plus, I was on maternity leave and I think Clio would just have prefered to hang out with me. Once we straightened out the fact that Mommy's don't go to school, she was fine, and never looked back.

At any rate, I was bringing my own brand of crazy into that conference, waiting for the big judgement. I truly expected a lecture on the importance of being on time (I know!) and the impact of broken routines on toddlers (I know!).

This is weird on a couple of levels. First, it turns out that I'm the grown up in this situation, and that, in a way, the teachers "work for me." Well, really for Clio. Second, as a teacher myself for the first time, I have realized that so many of the little things we stress about as students really don't matter. One of my students asked me if I wanted footnotes or endnotes in her term paper; my answer? I don't care. Others have given me frantic excuses for being late or missing a class altogether (attendance and participation are factors in their grades); you know what? I don't care about that either. Because this is a Master's program, these are adults, and sometimes in life, things happen. We are late. We have to make choices. And what I really care about is that people show up because they're interested in what we're talking about. That they do the reading because they find it engaging. And that they participate because school is one of the safest testing grounds for your ideas, and not taking advantage of that space is a lost opportunity.

So of course, Clio's conference was about her. And because she's actually doing very well there, no one had a lot to say. They told us that Clio really uses the whole room. That she has bonded with a little girl named Haley. That she's really into snack (no kidding.) And that they're really impressed by how competent she is, especially as the youngest in the class. They said it's clear she's been socialized (i.e. a day care kid) because she really knows how to negotiate the social landscape, even asking kids if she may play with them; they say this is a skill they can only hope for by the END of the year.

They asked if we had any questions. I wondered if she was testing limits with them. She's not. They hope she doesn't start. They clearly have a fondness for our big little girl that makes me proud. And I left there feeling relieved and, yes, a little crazy. For having worried so much.

This week, Eleri got a report card of her own. At her 2 month checkup, we talked to our Dr. about Eleri's tendency to look only to the left when lying down, and her droopy neck when being held up. We got in touch with the State's Early Intervention program, and after a drawn-out coordination process, we finally had the evaluation this week. A physical therapist, cognitive development specialist, and social worker all arrived at the house in a minivan, and filed in iwith clipboards, wearing scrubs. They had me put Eleri on a blanket and ran her through a number of exercises. They said that sometimes big babies, especially born at full term or late, are slower to develop certain motor skills because they had so little space to move in there, but that she's right where she should be for 4 months. She smiled and laughed and charmed the pants off of them all. We'll get a full written report in several weeks, but for now, they say she's a beautiful, healthy little baby, and they recommend that the case be closed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Why didn't I see this one coming?

Now Eleri is throwing up.

Between my bed rest and all these kid sick days, I'm pretty sure I'm out of time off this year, despite having taken nothing resembling a vacation.

Have I mentioned that Clio often asks, "Mommy, why you say [sigh]?"


Thursday, November 20, 2008

One step forward, two steps back

This morning, when I got Clio from school to day care, she promptly threw up all over her shoes. Apparently there's a stomach bug going around.

I'm feeling a little queasy myself.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A moment of appreciation for my husband

On the train home tonight, I over heard a woman call her husband as we went over the bridge. Listening to her side of their conversation, I was struck by how lucky I am to have a renaissance man like Dave around. It went something like this:

"I'm running late for my appointment, so here's what I need you to do:
Go to the cabinet and take out a pot.

The stainless steel one.

Right. Put some water in it.
Then, about 25 minutes before I get home, turn on the stove.

Yes, put it on low so it just boils when I get home.

We'll have pasta!"

Dave knows how to boil water. He does not need instructions about how to make pasta. He can (and will) make a much more complex meal on his own, without prompting. In fact, he's quite a wizard in the kitchen. And he does dishes!

Come to think of it... I wonder if she was talking to a child?

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Clio has been pretty into stickers lately.

True, she's not great at peeling them off the sheet; true, she doesn't fully understand that there's a limited lifespan to the actual stickiness if you continually un-stick and re-stick them to new spots; and true, she thinks the best "spots" are either on your skin or piled on top of one another in a coloring book, creating something of a sticker hog-pile.

Nonetheless, she is thrilled by any gift of stickers, whether chosen from a plastic apple at the Doctor's office or peeled from the opening in a new wipes container; and she was particularly pleased this weekend to get some wacky cat stickers in the mail from Grandma.

Here she is, displaying her wares on tow occasions (we've been doling them out to streeeetch the fun as many days as possible).

And here again, pointing out the sticker that I was honored to have bestowed upon me (before her bath; after her bath my shirt wore ALL the stickers since even Clio seemed to get that stickers don't belong in the tub and therefore allowed me to take them off her hands.)

I imagine a few of you are thinking "Dibs" for Christmas. Guess what? If she's still interested in stickers 6 weeks down the road, I'm sure she'll still be interested in AS MANY AS SHE CAN POSSIBLY GET HER HANDS ON (and get on her hands.) So have at it.


So, I made it through the week.
The Strategic Plan made it to Anne late, but still in enough time for her to get it done and out to the staff ahead of schedule.
I brought the wrong presentation to City College, but we still had plenty to talk about (it was a great group of students); plus I had never been to the campus and I always love alighting from a subway station to a specific place I have never encountered.
It felt like Dave and I were absent from work more than we were present, but we haven't been fired.
While Eleri does not really sound any better, a follow-up with the Doctor on Friday shows that she's at least gaining weight (at the Dr's suggestion, we started supplementing with formula, which seems to be working), and as far as the bronchiolitis, I guess it has to run it's course, which can take weeks. We'll try her back at day care tomorrow and see how it goes.
Dave and I even got out of the house last night, thanks to an unclaimed babysitting swap from about a year back. We went to dinner with Marni and Matt and then to see Zack and Miri Make a Porno. We chose this movie not so much because it was anyone's first choice, but because Slumdog Millionaire was sold out for our desired showtime and Zack and Miri was both late enough that we could make it from dinner, and early enough and short enough that we could make it home at a decent hour (plus right around the corner from the subway.) Dave and I laughed harder than anyone else in the theater, leading me to believe that either our sense of humor has melded over the past 6 or so years together, or we were the only ones there in such desperate need of a little levity. Either way, the little break was much appreciated.
Today we were back to it, meal planning and grocery shopping and braving the crowds at Ikea because we only had one sheet for Clio's bed and lately if one of the girls is not soaking through her bed, then the other one is. Does the glory never end?

Friday, November 14, 2008


Recently we have noticed that Clio is really warming up to Eleri. In the beginning there, it seemed like she was just tolerating her little sister, and struggling with the impact she had on her formerly only-child world. Now, it's true that Clio has always behaved positively towards Eleri herself; she took her frustration out in other ways (i.e. at me and Dave). Despite these overt tendencies of tolerance, Clio did have the tendency to occasionally shake Eleri's arm just a touch too hard or hold her head just slightly more firmly than I might recommend, and she definitely believes that "sharing" goes in one direction only (upstream to the Big Sibling.) But ever since Eleri started cracking up and just about everything Clio does, the tide has been turning.

Tonight, I had one strapped into a high chair and the other buckled in a bouncy seat, and made a mad dash downstairs to get a crib sheet out of the dryer for the impending bedtime. Upstairs, I heard Clio say, "It's okay Eleri, Mommy will be right back." Then she called out, "mom-my" in a sing-song, and when I responded "yes, Clio?" from the basement she sort of gasped and said, "Eleri! She can hear us!"

It was the first time I've seen (or rather, heard) Clio address Eleri directly, as a person. And not just a person, but a comrade. Dave and I do not know from sisters, having thre bothers between us, but most of my best friends over the years have had very intense sister relationships, and it seems to me that this is the beginning of it all: the passion, the drama, the competition, the up-all-night sleepovers, the joy, the pain, the love.

I'm terrified.

I can't wait.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The blind leading the blind

Walking home from day care tonight, Clio asked if there were any clouds, I said there were, but explained that it was too dark to really see them. She stopped, looked up, and said, "we have to turn on the light to see the clouds?"

And then I tried to explain why we can't "turn on" the sun.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pity Party's Over (with apologies for the indulgence)

Nothing like a full day at the hospital to get back on track.

I mean this sarcastically, of course; losing several work hours yesterday and all of them today did not do much for working out my schedule stress and deadline issues.
But I also mean it earnestly, and I'll tell you why. (Everyone is fine, by the way.)

Much of the trouble yesterday had as much to do with the lost time and the logistics of making a return trip to the Doctor as it did with the emotional impact of a sick child; however busy or stressed you are, that's just out of whack. Even at the Doctor's office last night, I asked point blank how many visits we might be expected to make this week, and expressed concern for the amount of time Dave and I have both been out of the office because of the kids lately. Our Doctor looked at me a little strangely, even (or especially) when I said something along the lines of "I mean, of course we'll do everything we need to do; I just need to wrap my head around the
schedule." Similarly, this morning when Eleri's breathing continued to retract and the Dr. instructed me to go to the emergency room to get her chest x-rayed, I quibbled a bit over the trip into Manhattan, etc.

But somehow, at the hospital, something a little bit wonderful happened: I got to spend the entire day with my baby. No email, no phones, no TV, no distractions. Just me and Eleri in a private little room in the ER, hanging out. (Despite the labored breathing she was as happy as can be; I think she was equally delighted to get a full day with just her mom. She made a ton of friends, and I've never heard such fawning about how cute she is, or what a good baby.)

And so I remembered that kids are not in our lives to make it more difficult ("The World Is Testing Me (And I'm getting a failing grade)"); I remembered that it doesn't matter if you're parenting as well as any other parent, so long as you're parenting well enough for your kids ("Keeping Up With The ...."); and I remembered that our schedules are crazy because we want to do everything possible to make our world a good place for our kids to be.

Tomorrow, when I can't deliver the strategic plan that is due and I haven't done the readings for the class I'm teaching, I will undoubtedly begin to panic once again. (I notice I'm holding by breath again just thinking about it.) But that's okay. I knew that this fall was going to be one of the hardest periods of my life, and that when I come out on the other side I will be glad to have done it all. I know it is not sustainable, and in a few weeks or months I'll have to make some decisions. For now, the holidays loom large, and they'll be here before you know it. And we'll all breathe it in.

Welcome to my Pity Party (Another installment in the On being a working mom Series)

I'm up in the middle of the night to pump and can't seem to get back to sleep (which I will regret tomorrow). To give some context to the last two posts (and likely future ones), I think I need to offer some background. I'm not sure why I expect people to feel bad for me- many, many people have much, much harder lives. And I'm not exactly sure why I think that people feeling bad for me will make me feel better (it usually makes me feel worse), but that seems to be the brain space I'm in.

So you get a sense of what I'm dealing with, here's how my typical week unfolds:

Monday and Tuesday, get the girls to Day Care and work a normal day. Pump twice at work. Hold bi-weekly departmental meetings with my teams and monthly departmental strategy meetings. Tuesday night, do readings and prepare notes for class on Wednesday.

Wednesday, get the girls to Day Care and start the work day early with staff meeting, which I run. Work until 3:30, then prepare files (paper and electronic) for Thursday morning. Run to NYU for class. Pump at least once, preferably twice. After class, field questions from students, thereby putting me home too late to feed Eleri before bed. Pump some more.

Thursday and Friday, drive Clio to school, punch the meter, set up shop at Starbucks and work remotely for two hours. Punch the meter, walk or drive the few blocks to school, drive Clio to day care, feed Eleri in the back room, re-park the car, grab some leftovers, and take the subway into the city to work for 4 hours. Pump once.

That's just the basic, and obviously doesn't include things like actual work at work, meal planning, cooking, doing dishes, blogging, corresponding with friends and family, laundry, grocery shopping, time with the kids, etc. at home.

This week, let's add a few specifics on top:
Monday, parent-teacher conference for Clio; 4-month check up for Eleri. On the way from one to the other, the fuel light comes on in the car. At the Doctor's office, 1 1/2 hours turns out not to be enough on the meter, so in the middle of the appointment, re-dress Eleri, take her outside, punch the meter, return. Head to the pharmacy, punch the meter. An hour wait for saline at the pharmacy means drive to day care, pick up Clio, stop to get gas, head back to the pharmacy; search for 10 minutes for a quarter for the meter (roll of quarters begged from a bank I don't belong to was apparently stolen out of the car when I left it unlocked in the school pick up craziness); head home to feed Clio a late dinner and nebulize, nebulize Eleri. Pump.

Tuesday, back to the Doctor. New prescription for me: directly after feeding Eleri, pump and feed THAT to her, too. Doctor visits may be daily this week. Work from home on Strategic Plan, due back to Anne on Wednesday. Field last minute questions from students, whose papers are due Wednesday. Pump, pump, pump.

Wednesday, input to Strategic Plan draft due. Between staff meeting and class, head out of the office to meet with prospective web redesigners. Receive student papers (23 students x 15 pages of critical theory each = shoot me now.) Who has time to pump?

Thursday, pull together images for lecture for Friday.
Finalize changes to group health care plan (benefits manager only in on Thursdays, and we're just under the wire for renewal deadline).

Friday, head way uptown to City College to give a lecture to a class of undergrads; get back to Brooklyn in time to pick up Clio at school. Take the subway or bus back to Day Care.

Hmmmm..... somehow, stripping the week down without all the details and little things that inevitably go wrong (and without my actual to-do lists layered over the top) makes it seem like this should be doable after all.
I guess if I could just figure out how to strip the stress and emotion out of it when I'm actually doing it, I'd be way better off. But to do that, I might need to get a little more sleep. And then, when would I pump?

Monday, November 10, 2008

On breathing easy

This post should have been titled "Eleri Ruth, 4 months old," followed by her vital stats and a little something about her milestones over the past month (rolling over, grasping with both hands, knocking two items together, pushing up on her arms, laughing, laughing, laughing). But because Eleri's vital stats were out of wack, we find ourselves becoming intimate with our new friend Mister Nebulizer.

(It only occurs to me now that this is not intended to be read as Mr. Nebulizer, but instead a nebulizer which mists. It's much funnier the other way.)

At this age, babies still tend to gain about a half an ounce a day; over the past month, Eleri has in fact lost a tiny bit of weight, and while she is certainly a healthy-sized kid,
it is concerning that she is not continuing on the natural upward trajectory. The Dr. and I spent quite a while speculating that perhaps the measurements were off last time, that she had just eaten then while today she was due for her lunch, that different nurses have different measuring styles (a theory that was aided by the fact that Eleri's head also supposedly lost 2 centimeters circumference.) I was even marveling at the fact that the inability to put on weight was simply a trait that Eleri may have inherited from her father's side of the family (finally, a clear genetic link to the Petersons!)

But then the Doctor noticed that Eleri's chest and belly were doing a very dramatic dance as she breathed, and that, in fact, she seemed to be panting (though she
continued to smile and coo and act altogether unperturbed by this nuisance.) I had noticed a similar scenario when I got her dressed in the morning, but somehow attributed it to her newfound love of arching her back and looking up over her head while lying down, and did not connect it to the cold she's had forever. One of the practice's most senior Doctors was consulted, and after they had a private chat behind closed doors, our Doctor returned with Mr. Nebulizer. (seen here at our home, later.)
The stomach-and-chest-dance is apparently evidence that Eleri is using muscles to breathe that, strictly speaking, exist for other purposes; they believe that, in reaction to her severe congestion, she has been working so hard to breathe that she's burning many extra calories, leading to the slight weight loss. To correct the problem, Eleri needs to breathe easier.

A short aside. This morning, when I came in to work my boss and several colleagues were sitting in the entryway, welcoming our newest employee on her first day. Anne
asked if I had a good weekend; after I confessed that I had throw out my back, and after the general groans subsided, Anne again gave me her favorite bit of advice: to breathe. This is a popular line in cheesy romantic movies and ballads (Just breathe), but in fact it is also sage advice; Anne often catches me holding my breath when I had no idea I was doing so. The masseuse who helped release the tension in my back yesterday also touched on this, suggesting that I find time to return to yoga, where you use your breath to invade the war zones in both your body and your mind.

So Eleri and I sat together in the pediatrician's office breathing in vaporized sterile water. Eleri actually liked this, and talked all the while. I found that time got a little warped between the sound of the machine and the anesthetizing effects of the vapor. Eventually we were sent out into the world with our very own Mister Nebulizer, and a prescription for little tubes of
saline. At home, Eleri got nebulized twice more, once to happy effect

and once straight to sleepytime.

Clio wanted to try it out but was denied. (I'll admit I tested it- the vapor is cold and smells funny- and it's unclear why it seems to have such a druglike effect; it's just water, after all).
Tomorrow morning she gets another dose, then we return to the Doctor and hope to find her on the mend.

As for me? I'm afraid it's more complicated.

For now I am still breathing.

Just barely.

On Blogging

On days like today, when things are a touch overwhelming and it feels impossible to take care of even the basics, I find myself organizing the chaos of my life into hypothetical blog posts, with titles that help me name my anxiety. Writing has always made things real for me, and helped me to process my world, so it's no surprise that this space functions as a sort of journal, where I work out my issues... albeit publicly.

I've got lots on my mind, and as my day spun out of control, the titles that came to me went a little something like this:

The World Is Testing Me (And I'm Getting a Failing Grade)
On Being a Disaster
On Murphy's Law (The First Law of Parenthood)
Hurricane Parenthood
Keeping up Appearances
Keeping up with the Joneses
We are Those Parents, You Know the Ones

And so on.

You getting the picture?

Clio's New Favorite Thing

"Spicy Water"



She likes to drink it, sure, but what really makes it a favorite is how fun it is to try to catch the bubbles in the glass.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

I've been feeling a little emotional about this election.

This morning, I took the girls with me to the polls. We had seen coverage on NY1 of our old neighborhood, where the line to get in to vote went out of the school and around the block (seeing this, my eyes welled up); as we vote in the school just down the street, Dave poked his head out and declared no around-the-block lines, so I figured I could just slip in and out, and give our kids their first dose of democracy in action.

When we walked in, the volunteer manning the front table said, "Look, it's the future!" and referred to Clio as a presidential hopeful circa 2050 or so- of course she doesn't know what that means, but I felt like we all kind of liked hearing it.

In the end, Clio was not thrilled about the crowds and we didn't stay (I'll go back and vote after work), but I felt not just a little thrilled by this notion of the future. Whatever happens today, we are light-years closer to realizing the notion that anyone can be president, and despite my general lack of political engagement, today I feel hopeful that my girls might grow up believing that America does indeed have the best political system in the world, and that their country works for them, as much (or as little) as anyone else.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

NYC Marathon

As you may have learned around this time last year, the New York City Marathon goes right through our neighborhood at mile 5, about half a block away from our house. Clio got pretty excited to "watch the runners," and got all dolled up in some warm clothes for a little intensive bystanding. (Dave tells me that her friend Isabella recently went to some event involving models, where she learned to pose and walk the catwalk; she passed this knowledge along to a very eager Clio, who is demonstrating her new skills here.)

Last year we watched as many, many runners took a pit stop at our corner Hess, relieving themselves in the bushes we walk by every single day. This year, our corner came just
before the Gatorade station. Product placement alert! Check out all the ING ponchos, and the 8 gazillion Gatorade cups all over the street. (I would be afraid, very afraid, to run through this.)

We met up with our friends Emily and Ben, and their boy Abe, who joined Clio in a little marathon of their own. At first it appeared that this telephone was the relay point,
but soon they were off and running.... and running... and here's Dave running after them.

Successfully corralled.

How old do you have to be to enter the marathon lottery?