Thursday, January 31, 2008

Morrison Gets in the Picture

Incidentally (And speaking of Family Ties), Clio has added "Nima" (aka Grandma) to her morning round of asking for people who are not here. Shooda (aka Lucia) is the only constant, with requests for photo viewing etc. every single morning. The rest of the family list rotates, and right now Grandma Peterson is hot!

Family Ties

Last weekend, we had the pleasure of not one, but two visits: First, my cousin Patrick and his girlfriend Lauren came to brunch (Patrick is a recent grad of Notre Dame and just moved to Manhattan), then Marni came for "baby dinner" (and went out with the Mommy and the Daddy for grown up dinner- al di la, yum!) Clio took a while to warm up to all these family visitors (Marni's basically been my NY family for 10 years; I'd say she counts at this point), and our attempts at portraiture were far more successful on the adult side of things. (Incidentally, you can see Clio's full ensemble from the Home Depot excursion- minus, of course, the glam outerwear.)

Once she got used to the extra people in her house though, Clio spared no time in putting them to work. The scenario was similar with each visit:
Patrick introduces this bean bag ball to Clio,

Clio throws several at once in every direction, encouraging all four adults to scatter and scuttle around like crabs. (the scuttling happened after this picture was taken.)

This even continued during the portrait sitting.

Then, Marni introduces her blackberry,

Clio gets "Clio's phone"

and Marni is forced to play "phone call" for the next 20 minutes.

(Phone call would be a lot more fun if Clio understood the concept of speaking beyond the "hello hello hello.")

Good times were had by all.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Airplane, Here" Dyptich, 2008

Yesterday morning before going off to day care and work, Clio and I spent some time watching the airplanes out the window. What this really means is that Clio and I knelt together on the couch, eyes peeled to the sky, and every time an airplane floated into view between our house and the apartment building across the street, I would lift her up, point, and say "Clio, look!" And she would look invariably in the wrong direction, in every direction but the airplanes', and as it glided over the rooftop and out of sight, I would say "bye bye airplane," and Clio would cock her little wrist the way she does, and say "Airplane where?"

Tonight she answered her own question when coloring with crayons. (She specifies the mode of artwork production, so I might as well, too.) She drew these two pictures (simultaneously), and at several intervals, drew a swoosh, pointed, and said "Airplane here!"

You can see them, can't you?

Incidentally, she did finally see an airplane- the fifth that I spotted for her. I'm not sure who was more excited about this success.

And who knew so many airplanes flew over our house?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Heaven = Home Depot; Heaven = Clio's House of Joy

This morning we had an excursion to Home Depot.

We wanted to get Clio out of the house, and after debating all of the structured indoor-play options (most of which are untested and cost money), we figured Clio would like the play opportunities afforded by our local DIY superstore nearly as much (plus, we could get something accomplished in grown-up land.)
Little did I know, Home Depot is basically Clio's idea of nirvana.

Why? Well, I'll tell you. Not only are there wide-open aisles to run along ("running!"), large carpet samples to roll against ("soft!"), and plastic deck furniture to rearrange, but there is an ENTIRE DEPARTMENT of kitchens, all with cabinets and drawers to open, none of them restricted by annoying rubber bands or other child-proofing measures. I think Clio opened EVERY drawer and cabinet in EVERY kitchen (discovering along the way where the department's staff keeps their coats, work gloves, and, occasionally, snacks). Her most emphatic gesture of love and happiness these days is to say "more" several times, while doing the sign for more with her little hands. Needless to say, we witnessed a lot of this at the Home Depot. In fact, Clio has an appetite for drawers that seems insatiable: it's lucky we discovered the bathroom aisle when we did.

Sadly, I didn't bring my camera to Home Depot (and Clio was a sight to behold: in addition to her pale pink and taupe camo pants, she selected a sweater of pastel-rainbow-hued tie-dye, radiating out from her belly like a bulls eye. With her hot-pink boots and tendency to dash across the all-gray aisles, she was pretty hard to miss).

I do, however, have pictures from Heaven vision #2. Let's just call this Clio's House (aka the Best. Christmas Present. Ever.) of Joy (aka animals and "babies").

Once she got the brilliant idea to invite Relaxing Bear inside, she realized what a great spot this would be for all the animals and babies, and started doing that "More" thing again. After creating a stuffed menagerie, somehow she found room to cram Daddy in there, too.

I was not invited. (Look at Dave's hand, closing the door. Traitor.)

(How can there be a Heaven with no Mommy, I ask myself?)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Clio and the Cat

Anne's daughter Paris recently cleaned out her childhood stuffed animal collection, and Clio was the lucky recipient of a leopard ("cat" for sake of ease), a rabbit, and an ostrich. To draw out this gift and make each one special, we have been giving them to Clio one at a time. With both the cat and the bunny, she has delighted in carrying them around, and relating their various parts to her own, as in "Cat nose" (pointing to the cat's nose), "Clio nose" (pointing to Clio's nose.)

I wonder what she'll make of the ostrich?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Good Mother

After my own recent ramblings about the choices for women in America, I was interested to happen upon this article in New York Magazine, The Bad Mommy Brigade, which takes as its starting point the relief many mothers apparently feel from watching Britney Spear's failures with her own little boys. The author, Aylet Waldman, had her 15 minutes a few years ago when confessing in the Times that she loved her husband more than her children- and was vilified for her "selfishness" by all the "perfect" mothers of NYC.

In researching her article, Waldman takes a casual survey of her peers- middle class women in their 30s and 40s- asking them to define Good and Bad mothers and fathers. I recognized the saintly Good Mother answers for all the unrealistic, but somehow commonplace, expectations they conjure:

“She remembers to serve fruit at breakfast, is always cheerful and never yells, manages not to project her own neuroses onto her children, volunteers in the community, remembers to make playdates, her children’s clothes fit, and she does art projects with them and enjoys their games. And she is never too tired for sex.”

One of the common threads through the article is this idea that a Good Mother not only sacrifices all for her children, but she loves doing it. As much satisfaction as I get from making life good for Clio, this picture of perfection is never going to be me. (It's never going to be anyone I know.)

You know what? I wish someone had asked me to describe these roles, the Good and Bad parents, before I read the article and got someone else's ideas into my head. I have plenty of failings and insecurities, but I truly think I am a good mom, that Dave and I are good parents, despite sending Clio to day care, never cutting her fingernails, letting her out of the house without mittens, and sometimes just letting her have what she wants (even if we shouldn't). The disturbing thing is--and Waldman gets at this--if I had been part of her survey, in describing the Good Mother I bet I wouldn't have described myself.

Read the article and let me know what you think.


This weekend, Clio discovered her shadow.

Dave and I each (coincidentally) spent some time outside with her in bright sunlight, and showed her the shadows we cast on the ground. For my part, I would wave at the shadow over and over, so Clio could see my actual arm, then my shadow arm, to wrap her head around the connection.

There are two large apartment buildings across the street from our house, and Clio chased her own shadow all along their surfaces; when she turned around to walk back up the little hill (casting her shadow behind her) she would cock her wrist, look at me, and ask "Where did shadow go?" making me think of Peter Pan and the lost boys, trying to recover his shadow.

I wished I had the video camera on me at the time, but we did manage to capture a few stills on the boardwalk at Coney Island:

It's so amazing to watch Clio as she begins to encounter more abstract concepts. This weekend we also went into the basement and used our webcams to talk to Nonny, Papa, Finn, and Lucia (my mom's excellent idea after Clio continued to talk about the Minnesota crew for several days running-actually, it's still going on). Clio was a little shy about the whole computer-conversing (webcams sort of blow my mind, I can only imagine what this toddler must think), but now, on occasion, she'll say "Papa, downstairs." And in a way, yes, that's where he is.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Untitled, 2008 (For Grandma Barb)

One Fish, Two Fish, Red fish, Blue Fish

This morning we had a family outing to the New York Aquarium, just off the boardwalk in Coney Island,

with mixed results.

The first tank you encounter upon entering is a large, lovely, tropical display, with elaborate coral and fish in every color of the rainbow, and Clio did the appropriate shrieking, pointing and squealing. When we pointed out the beautiful (And big!) cownosed rays (like giant sting rays, but not that big), she was really into it for all of five seconds, until one of them did its graceful glide right towards us, and Clio started saying "I don't want it. No ray." over and over again. Chanting, really.

And this became a common refrain:
The walrus (huge, magnificent) and its calf (pride of Brooklyn, advertised all over the subways): "No want it. No Walrus."

Furry seals? No.

Adorable family of penguins? A dozen varieties of sea horse? Billowy, ethereal jellyfish? Not even they.

And forget about the sharks, giant turtles, and other large swimming things.

You know what Clio did like? A murky tank of tiny, tiny snails.

I kid you not. These things were so small, at first I thought they had just forgotten to put the "exhibit closed" sign behind the glass. But there they were. The tiniest snails, with the tiniest shells, I have ever seen.

Clio hung out in front of that tank for quite a long time, and it seemed to break her of her "No want it" mood: she ran around this last exhibit with gusto, insisting we take off her jacket so she could get comfortable, stay a while. She grabbed us by the finger and led us through the darkened corridors. I think the kid's got a thing for subtlety: after the snails, the showstopper was the sandfish display, with little wisps of nearly-transparent white fish that skim the water's bottom and cover themselves with sand to blend in. This sophisticated camoflauge was no match for one eagle-eyed toddler.

My favorite? The moon jellyfish. There were giant tanks of them, backlit in neon colors, in a portion of the exhibit called "Alien Stingers." I wouldn't want to encounter them in the wild (see
Starring Sally J Freedman as Herself - okay, so those were man-o-wars, but in my childhood mind's eye, they all got clumped together into something very scary), but they do make a beautiful sight to behold.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dreaming of Minnesota?

This morning, Clio woke up asking for Papa. While I got her out of her sleepers and into pants, she just said "Papa? Papa? Papa?" over and over. When we went downstairs and sat down in the danish rocker for a little pre-breakfast snuggle, she started saying Nonny.

I tried to explain that Nonny and Papa are in Minnesota, far away, and that we can't see them right now. She looked at me and said, "Laila and Owey." I wasn't sure I heard her right (Laila and Owen are Lizzie's kids, who also live in Minnesota and who Clio has only spent time with on a handful of occasions.) I asked her to say again, and sure enough: "Laila and Owey."

Then, on the way to day care, completely unprovoked, Clio started saying Shooda. I asked if she was talking about her cousin Lucia, and she said "Yes. Shooda. 'Inn." Lucia and Finn.

I think she must have been dreaming of Minnesota last night.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

This Just In...

My mom found one of the shots of Lizzie and I on the deck- this one happens to be from the back, so you can't really see any resemblance to our preent-day photo in a reent post, but don't you just love that particular tone of 70s snapshots? So nostalgic; I love how the yellowish cast just conjures an era so completely.

Thanks for sending, Mom!

Monday, January 14, 2008


This morning Clio requested to wear something "pretty" to Day Care. It started when I went in to get her up, wearing a top with a rhinestone-encrusted circle at the peak of the V-neck (like one of those popular diamond-circle necklaces embedded right into your clothing), and she immediately reached for it and said, you got it, "pretty." Later, when we went up to get dressed, she said "Clio, pretty," and affirmed that she'd like to wear a dress, please. And her fancy party shoes. And a green barrette with a duck. No, a purple barrette with a bear. ("Purple Bear!"). Apparently when she got to Day Care and got out of her coat, she paraded around the room, rubbing her hands down her dress and pronouncing it "pretty." That's my girl.

I was famous for my fashion choices as a kid- so much so that my brothers STILL find hallmark cards about the tendency, and every once in a while friends and colleagues will ask about some of my themed-phases, just for fun (the 3d grade Equestrian phase, the 7th grade Secretary phase, the 12th grade- yes, 12th- Laura Ashley floral romper phase). According to my mother, I started picking out my own clothes, completely, when I was 2, causing the neighbors (the afore-mentioned Lizzie, Amy, and Carrie's Moms) to wonder aloud how my mother found the courage to let me leave the house "that way". From a young age, I believed in layering pattern, and felt that flowers matched flowers, plaid matched plaid, and so on and so forth. I also had a thing for fuzzy tights, clogs, and dresses, dresses, dresses. Another of my mom's favorite tales is of a dress I spotted at Zaires, at least 2 sizes to big, that I
had to have and did in fact wear for a number of years until I finally outgrew it. She's been scanning all kinds of pictures lately- maybe she'll send one on (she know's exactly what I'm talking about!).

So I should have wondered when Clio might take an interest. She has been trying to dress herself lately, but up until this happy morning, I thought it was purely a matter of function; form is so much more fun.

And speaking of pretty, Marni just sent me this picture from her wedding day: check us out in our furs, against a backdrop of Manhattan: how very, very glam!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

First Blood

Well, it was bound to happen sooner than later: Clio fell down went boom. Luckily, this did not happen on my watch. The first time my Jetta got a ding (back when it was brand-spankin'-new), I literally fell to my knees on the streets of Hell's Kitchen and emitted something like a strangled wail. In fact, the weight of ownership and the responsibility of marring the initial perfection of something completely mine was just too much, and I vowed to buy used forever. (what's another ding, right?) I guess I've learned that a little patina goes a long way, and sometimes kids get hurt. They just do. In this case Clio apparently tripped over her own feet when she and Dave were running home from Day Care, and cut her lip on her tooth. She healed up quickly; in fact, if Dave hadn't told me, I never would have known the next morning (especially since he hid the evidence; the bloody parka was already in the dryer by the time I got home!) In the end, I'm glad I'm just seeing these pictures now, where enough time has passed to be sure there's no residual damage, like internal injuries or Brain Cloud any of those other vague and threatening things that everyone gets on Grey's Anatomy.

They also say kids are pretty resilient. I think Dave took this the same night:

Yup. Not bothered, so I guess it's best if we're not, too.

Best. Christmas Present. Ever.

Lucia and Finn (with plenty of help from their parents) went all out for Clio's second Christmas (I keep wanting to call it her "First" Christmas- last year she seemed to have an excellent time, but clearly had no clue what this pagan celebration of trees and presents was all about). Check out the colossal gift, and the impressive wrap-job:

These kids could NOT wait for Clio to open this up. Unfortunately for them, Clio fell asleep in the car on the way to their house, and ended up napping through lunch, causing them to wait an interminably long time. Finn spent some of that time INSIDE the gift, moving the whole thing around like it was on remote control. I spent much of that time telling my parents that they were going to inherit this house of a present, and that Clio could visit it when she came to town. Maud assured me we could get it back to Brooklyn.

Maud, of course, was right: behold the genius of the pop-up house (Finn and Lucia each did a lot of demonstrating)

In addition to the new house, just perfectly Clio-sized, one of the greatest things about spending several days with Clio's cousins was this:

Clio and Lucia are about 2 years apart, and they could not have had a better time together; maybe this second baby wasn't such a terrible idea after all!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

When 2 Blogs Collide

Over the holiday, we got to spend a morning with the Hewitts, they of The Hewitt Chronicles, an excellent mommy blog that I often refer to and shamelessly encourage you all to read. (The blogger, one of my very oldest friends in the world, makes me laugh and cry with almost every single post.)

Liz Edwards and I have been friends, along with fellow cul-de-sac neighbors Amy and Carrie Losleban, for 30 years. One of the things that sucks about living in New York is that Lizzie, Amy, and Carrie live in Minnesota, along with their kids Laila and Owen, Abigail Claire and Ian, and Morgan and Greta (respectively). Now, especially with so many girls within playing range, there is a sense of deja vu on the (very rare) occasion that any of these girls get together. Not least because personality seems to be as genetic as anything, and in one way or another these girls are a reflection of their moms.

I've been tearing the house apart for three days trying to find my favorite picture of Liz and I from our childhood, but no such luck; you'll just have to imagine it: we're about 4 and 5, we have our hair in a ton of little braids, and we're smiling like big goofballs on the deck of my parents old house.

Now, here we are in 2007:

When Dave was taking these pictures, I found myself a little embarrassed that Lizzie's kids are so well behaved, but mine is, well... not always willing to sit still. You know what though? Laila is just like I remember Lizzie: polite, a little proper, slightly soft-spoken, but very observant and intelligently funny. And everyone who knew me when I was Clio's age says she is just like me: spirited, independent, often laughing. I suppose we pass some of things down by example, but if you do go to the Hewitt Chronicles, specifically to this post, you'll see how much is simply in our DNA.

Monday, January 7, 2008


Every once in a while, I have the distinct pleasure of spending a lot of time with Clio, and then going away, so that when I return it is to discover her again. This happens in magnitudes of scale: our Christmas break was 10 days of pretty much all Clio, all the time, followed by a weekend of wedding activity and a return to work, leaving Clio almost solely in Dave's care for nearly a week. I found myself amazed by her for most of our long weekend together, and then, in a small way, again tonight after just one full day at work.

I also realize that there hasn't been a huge focus on Clio on the blog recently, but right now I'm just so amazed and in love with her. There are so many things to notice, new things that she seems to have learned overnight:

her desire to dress herself (or to dress her "babies" and "animals" in Clio clothes) and her fascination with zippers ("Clio zip Mommy!");
her ever-growing ability to communicate (requests for "desitin" and "powder" during a diaper change; the sometimes annoying "I don't want that" for just about every food we put in front of her); her fascination with "garbage," and picking up tiny little pieces of things to deposit in the can; her desire to help- pick up crayons, unload the groceries- and the converse instinct to knock down block towers as they are being created, and to empty and fill containers, and then empty them again; her new ability to turn things on and off, like the "electric" guitar she loves to dance to; her desire to do things "again" and "again" as she figures them out; and most of all, I love the joy with which she does many of these things, and the delight she clearly takes in having her world open up to her with every new skill and word she learns.

I also love watching her with Dave. Today I had a rare, great super-mom kind of a day, productive at work, home in time to make dinner, food in the oven in time to put Clio down; and while I cooked, I overheard them in the living room. Dave testing her on her counting (in Spanish and English), teaching her the names of tools (she seems to know "Hammer" - I'm not totally clear on the rest) and going over the "Farm" page of her First Words book ("Tractor," "Combine Harvester"). Marni said recently that she loves how matter-of-fact I am with Clio; I wondered aloud how else would I be? But I love that Dave is even more so; she may be just 18 months old, but
of course she should be counting, or saying her alphabet, or learning Combine Harvester, his simple actions imply. And you know what: why not? She seems to love this time they are spending together, and she's certainly learning a lot.

She seems like such a big girl all of a sudden, don't you think?