Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dave Gets Creative With Photoshop

and creates "Che Clio."
Shall we silkscreen some T-Shirts?

Clio gets in on the action

Not long ago, Eleri and I made an outing to participate in the mobile projects for Creative Time's Democracy in America. This weekend, we all went to the Convergence Center, an exhibition of political work that we put on at the Park Avenue Armory as the culmination of the DiA initiative. The show was way too big to take in with a toddler and baby in tow, and Clio got a little sugar-crazy when I let her take 3 small bites of my ice cream sandwich (free from the "Anarchist Ice Cream Truck"), but we did get to experience some of the work and overhear two of the many speeches scheduled in the space.

Luckily, it's a big big place, and no one seemed all that bothered by Clio running through the corridors and in and out of the various historic rooms.
Her favorite piece was a replica submarine that the artist Duke Riley took down the East River in a reenactment piece.

It had a small window to the inside at just the right height, and she spent a lot of time looking in it, running around, and looking in it again.
It was fun to be out in the world all together as a family, even if subway contruction meant we had to take three trains (and about an hour) to get home, putting Clio to bed waaaaaaay past her bedtime.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Us

Dave and I have been married three years today.

We recently ordered this print to fill a hole in our salon-style art wall in the dining room (I found it while pursuing a reproduction of a British Military poster, spotted in Domino, that said "Keep Calm and Carry On," if that tells you anything.)

There was, however, some debate over the truth of the statement and the corresponding logic or wisdom in displaying it in our home. In hindsight, I think this would be the case about any couple telling themselves the truth about their relationship: being committed to one person is hard. Marriage is work. So I take the print as aspirational.

This weekend, we had the pleasure of attending a wedding in the Berkshires; the timing turned out to be terrific, because I feel that I learned a few important things just in time for this anniversary.
First off, there is one place that we are definitely, indisputably, already good together: on the dance floor at weddings. I love dancing at weddings. You get such a mix of people on the floor, the music is a totally spirited yet accessible mix of motown and oldies, and in the spirit of celebration (and specifically celebrating the love of two people committing their lives to one another- in that moment before it gets hard), no one cares what they look like. At this wedding, I dare say that Dave and I were fun, we were funny, and we really tore it up.

Second, observing someone else's wedding with this much distance from my own, I realize that Dave and I made some hard choices in our ceremony, but that we were completely together in the decisions. Lila and Matt had Lila's aunt, a Rabbi, perform the ceremony; it was lovely, traditional, and personal all at once. Being the daughter of an Irish Catholic from a very large family in Ireland, I happen to have 3 uncles who are priests (and 1 who left the priesthood to marry a former nun); to keep it all in the family, Dave and I invited my uncle Frank to perform the ceremony, and despite the fact that we are not practicing catholics, Father Frank agreed. When it came down to it though, it became clear that Frank's strong faith and belief in the sacrament of marriage was at odds with our more practical, less spiritual take on things, so we switched gears and changed to a judge, inviting Frank to instead say grace (and make a toast) at the rehearsal dinner, while Father Billy said grace at the main event. Compromise is good when everyone feels satisfied.

Similarly, a family member declined our invitation to do a reading at the ceremony because he did not agree with the content; I have the utmost respect for his decision, but I am equally glad that Dave and I both chose to keep the sentiment--and the reading--and invited another family member to stand up on the altar with us. At the time, I'm not sure these felt like significant testaments to Dave and I as a couple, but in hindsight the fact that our decisions were so seamless speaks volumes about how simpatico we might actually be.

Most importantly, despite having little time to discuss our views on parenthood before our honeymoon baby came along, we have rarely disagreed about how to raise our daughters. The biggest divergence I can think of is in the use of ketchup as a condiment to inspire Clio to eat new things (she calls it "saucy" and I am for it while Dave is against.) Seriously, that's it.

So we will hang this print in the dining room where it can be aspirational, encouragement to Dave and I that we have this potential; and confirmational, a constant reminder that as a family, we have already met it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Clio Peterson, Future Art Director

That last post started out intending to be about Clio's new interest in participating in the photographic process by directing what I shoot. Mostly, this means taking pictures of her babies and stuffed animals. Dora figures prominently, as seen above.

I love the way she holds them up (Casting),

then arranges them just so and fixes their hair (Styling),

and then asks me to see the image, which she then might adjust.

Last night, she got a little creative with this rug sample for the living room, using it as a prop and exploring it from (literally) both sides.

On The Power of Images

It's no secret that Clio is really interested in cameras; and it's really no surprise, considering this blog and the annual Clio-centered photo books I make for Christmas gifts (and which Clio adores looking through in great detail).

I have spent the past 11 years involved in different kinds of meaning-making through the production of images, and the previous 5 engaged in the study of art history and visual culture; these 16 years happened to be situated at a time when the Image in general and our cultural relationship to photography in particular has undergone radical changes; as such, I'm fascinated to watch Clio's relationship to the camera.

When I first worked as an Art Buyer in 1997, the internet was still primarily a site for computer geeks and the porn industry, and cameras functioned on film. Producing images required time, money, and technical skill. I remember thinking that I could never be a photographer because I'm too much of a control freak, and with film, you never know until it's developed whether or not you got your shot. At that point, the set is dismantled, the models have gone home, and it's truly too late. I also remember one still life photographer who invested in a high-end digital camera in 1998 or 1999, spending about $30K but reaping the rewards of being one of the few shops in town that could produce images quickly with confirmed, accurate results. Fast forward ten years and everyone owns a digital camera the size of a wallet and images can not only be produced instantaneously, but they can be disseminated in moments through a phone's wireless connection to the internet. (As an aside, I am still generally blown away by the technological mystery of fax machines.)

I hand wrote my term papers as late as senior year in high school and laid out yearbook pages with actual photos trimmed to size and glued onto graph paper. Clio already requests to see photos and type letters on the computer. This is not a new story, but it is one I still have a hard time comprehending. I always say that our interns are of a generation light-years ahead of me in terms of their comfort with and use of technology; what of my daughters?

In a way, Clio's relationship to the camera may have less to do with technology and more to do with the general narcissism of being two. But I wonder what early theorists of the photographic image, like Roland Barthes, would say about my ability to thwart a tantrum by taking its picture?

Here's Clio, throwing a tantrum because I wouldn't let her climb up the slide.

Rather than argue, which wouldn't do anyone much good anyway, I simply took her picture. "Let me see," she said, and came over to the bench where I sat to look at the evidence of her bad behavior.

And I showed her.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Apple Picking

We went to a wedding in the Berkshires this weekend, and as a Saturday morning activity, Lila and Matt had arranged for everyone to pick apples at a local orchard. Coincidentally, Clio loves Harold and the Purple Crayon these days, and the original Harold book has a scene where Harold comes to a place where he thinks a forest ought to be; as he doesn't want to get lost, he makes a very small forest, with only one tree in it, and it turns out to be an apple tree. So Clio is familiar with the concept. Thursday and Friday, when we asked her where we were going this weekend, she would say "Apple picking!"

Clio thought it was just great that you could pick an apple and eat it right there. In fact, she thought it was her job to taste test every single apple. We discouraged this practice, but she ended up with a stomach ache anyway.

Dave has been trying to include me in our photos a bit more, so here I am in a somewhat rare appearance on this blog:

I should note that Dave protested taking this picture because while I may have both children, all the apples, and any supplies, it wouldn't be accurate if I wasn't "holding the camera too." He's a funny guy.

The orchard also had pick-your-own flowers for 25 cents a stem. We figured they would be wasted in our hotel room, but boy, were they every beautiful.

We did show restraint and came home with just two bags of apples; still, we may need to get busy making apple sauce, apple butter, apple muffins, dried apples...

On Neighborliness

Just wanted to share our neighbors new "welcome" mat.

For context, he's a cop, drives a mustang with the vanity plate "SLIC" and has lived with two single moms since we've been here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Double Take

Lately, people have begun telling me that Eleri "looks just like me." Which is interesting, because Clio looks quite a lot like me, but I generally don't think Clio and Eleri look alike. In these recent photos, I'm starting to see it.

And, looking back through Clio's baby photos, I did a double take.



I guess there's a family resemblance, no? Genetics never cease to amaze me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


This is Lucia.

Lucia is Clio's 4-year-old cousin, who she adores.

Cousin Lucia is really into things that are sparkly, fancy, or "big girl" including Polly Pockets (here she is showing Clio how to play with one)

and, especially Fair Hair, which she can be seen sporting in many of these pictures. This is a special beauty treatment that you can get at the Minnesota State Fair. Lucia thought Clio should have her hair done with fluorescent colors and glitter too, but after hearing Lucia's mom describe the process of de-Fairing the Hair, I passed on Clio's behalf.

Lucia, being two years older than Clio, also has a way of introducing Clio to new things. Like delicious snacks.

After enjoying a whole bowl of chips together, Lucia got them each an ice cream sandwich. Clio doesn't eat ice cream, especially right before bed, so we intercepted hers. But being such a generous and helpful girl, Lucia shared half of her own.

She also introduced Clio to the art of driving. Yes, driving. Lucia has this awesome tractor, and not only did she take Clio for a ride,

But she insisted Clio take it for a spin on her own. Thank goodness for helmets!

I like to think of her relationship with Lucia as Clio's chance to be a little sister- something that, since Eleri's arrival, she is quite desperate to try. Like most little sisters, Clio really wants to emulate Lucia.

No shirt for Lucia? No shirt for Clio. No problem.

Here she is, looking to see what to do next,

And doing as Lucia does.

While I was taking pictures of my Granddad holding Eleri (his littlest great-grandbaby for a few more months), Lucia taught Clio another important lesson: how to take back some of the spotlight for yourself!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Eleri Steps Out

On Saturday, Eleri attended her first Creative Time event: Valerie Tevere and Angel Nevarez's Another Protest Song (Karaoke with a Message) and the Center for Tactical Magic's Tactical Ice Cream Unit in Prospect Park.

We enjoyed some ice cream with a side of propaganda (first round: ice cream sandwich and "Food not Bombs"; round two: choco-vanilla bar and "Anarchy")

Watched Creative Time's curator Nato Thompson sing a LOT of "modern protest songs" (the project invited participants to name current songs they considered to be protest songs on a website, which the artists then compiled into a karoake play list)
Then got in on the action ourselves, joining Creative Time's director, Anne Pasternak, as backup dancer's to Nato's rendition of the Devo Classic Whip It. That's me, whipping it.

Eleri slept through it all. Yes, even the part where her mom publicly danced like an idiot. But she did get a lot of compliments about what a good baby she is. All true, all true.

Anyone who wants to check out these projects and many others by artists exploring what Democracy means today can come to the Park Avenue Armory from 9/21 - 9/27 for our exhibition Democracy in America: The National Art Campaign.

As Nato puts it, Democracy is a verb.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The "Bathtub Mom" or the "Rockstar Dad"

It's been two months since Eleri finally made her entry into the world, and her birth now seems like old news. But every once in a while, I am reminded that the delivery was, as Dave put it, a tad unusual. At parties I am still sometimes introduced as "the bathtub mom." On the street not long ago, I was chatting with another new mom when one of our neighbors announced in a stage whisper, "9 pounds. In the house!"

Most people who read this blog likely already know that, after going 12 days past her due date, Eleri suddenly arrived so quickly that we did not make it to the hospital, and our second daughter was born in our bathtub. But many of you have not heard the details.

I've thought a bit about it in the past 9 weeks, and the truth of the matter is, I'm not sure what to make of it. We're legends on our block and its fun to be called "rockstars" (it's been a long time since we were "cool"), but I meet more and more people with a similar story (including a fellow parent at Clio's school!) That said, I'm not going to reframe it. I'm just going to share the story as I told it to my mom's group the moment I came home from the hospital (with a few details ommitted to keep it all family-friendly and rated PG).

I started having contractions at 3am, and by 4 it was clear that labor was setting in, but I didn't establish a pattern until 7. The midwives' shift changed over at 8am, so I figured I would just call then. Between 7 and 8, my contractions were still only five minutes apart, and while the intensity was increasing, it really seemed like there was quite a ways to go.
But then my water broke. Okay, BURST is more like it, and immediately I started having what was basically like one huge ongoing contraction.

I had paged the midwife and she called back just as I was yelling at Dave to get Clio to Day Care and to RUN home. We agreed to meet at the hospital in about 20 minutes, but by the time Dave got home about 5 minutes later, I was starting to sense that there was no time. One of my favorite visuals from the day is Dave trying to put clothes on me to get in the car while I took them off (not unlike a toddler). I told Dave the midwife had to come to the house, but there wasn't time for that either. I stepped into the bathtub because I know someone who had a similar situation with her second baby, and it seemed like the logical thing to do. (Somewhere in the middle of this, there was what Dave later called my "Banshee screams" which probably alerted all the neighbors to the drama in our quite little house.)

Meanwhile, Dave called 911, and by the time he got back into the bathroom and on the phone, the head was out. (Later, Dave remembered making the declaration, "I guess we're just going to have to do this old school"). With the midwife on speaker phone (the cordless phone sitting in the bathroom sink), Dave and I delivered the baby. Babies are slippery- luckily Dave had thought to put the cushy non-stick mat in the tub to soften the landing (he tried to get me to lie down but there was just no way at that point). That part was all kind of a blur, but I remember looking to see if we had a boy or a girl, being slightly puzzled that she was a girl, and then focusing on the fact that she was a very unsettling shade of blue-purple.

The midwife walked us through getting her to breathe- holding her upside down by her feet, clearing her mouth, and rubbing her back- hard. It's amazing how hard it is to hold on to a 9-pound newborn.
By the time she turned pink and started to cry, the emergency personnel showed up. Great visual number 2: I'm standing in my bathtub (which is of course a horror-show by now), holding the baby in a bath sheet wearing nothing but a bra, and there were close to a dozen EMTs, firemen, and police officers in the bathroom, hallway, and down the stairs of our tiny little house. Apparently one of the neighbors asked if we needed someone to take Clio, and a game of telephone came up to us and back down to the neighbor. (Also, I'm just remembering now, Dave didn't go right downstairs when they all arrived- because he was testing out his new skills as an OB- so they thought I was alone and almost broke through our front windows!) They wrapped the baby in something warm, cut the cord, sucked out her nose, etc.

Great visual number 3: they put me on a stretcher with the baby and carried me out to an ambulance. Our street had a fire truck, at least two ambulances, and several police cars, all with sirens going. I was barely covered by a sheet, holding the baby, and all these neighbors I have never met were out on the sidewalk calling "congratulations!"

It was wild.
At this point, Dave and I were both thinking, Why do we have to go the the hospital? The baby's here. But obviously they still need to run tests, etc.

The midwife met us in the ambulance bay and took pictures of me on the stretcher- when I saw her for my 6-week checkup, she gave me the copy you see above (when I said, "wow, I look pretty good," she laughed and said "you look like a million bucks!")

Needless to say, this is not how we expected baby #2 to come into the world, but she seems pretty unbothered by it. She didn't even wake up when we transfered her to the car seat or got her home that first day. Of course, it's not such a big homecoming when she already took her first breath right upstairs!

Silly Daddy

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Who's My Big Talker?

Clio is a big talker. This isn't news. But it's funny now to look back on the word lists we kept when her vocabulary was first developing- they seem so, I don't know, quaint. My Aunt Molly recently told me that at this age, toddlers are learning about 15 new words a day, and Clio seems to prove this as she repeats everything back to us, and comes out with words we had no idea she knew. Like "enormous" or "favorite" or "bannister."

The other day she looked at me and said, "My name is Clio." I agreed that it was, and then she said. "My name is Peterson." Also true, but neither Dave nor I taught her this.

She's also connecting words to real-world experiences. Last night, she heard a noise out the window and I said, it sounds like someone's motorcycle. She looked at me and said, "Daddy's motorcycle?"

Most exciting, though, is watching her piece together concepts through language, like the concept of time. Lately, she'll say things like "I painted this picture last morning," or "see you next day!" (One of my Aunt Missy's favorites from her kids was "nexterday"). She's also working on ideas of scale and physical relationship, so we're seeing a lot of experimentation with prepositions, like "the magnet is on the refrigerator behind us." She still insists that the itsy-bitsy spider goes "up to the sun" though, so it's not quite all clear to her yet.

One thing is clear to me: we need to start watching our mouths- and our actions. Last week when I drove her to school and had very bad luck with traffic, reckless drivers, and parking, this could be heard from the back seat:

"Mommy, why you say 'Oh my god'?"
"Mommy, why you go like this?" (making the motion of hitting the steering wheel).

It's also time to start writing down some of the funny things Clio says, because god knows I can't remember anything anymore. I asked Lizzie how she keeps track of her daughter's stories for "Laila Quotes," a regular feature on her blog The Hewitt Chronicles, ans she said she spends a lot of time calling herself and leaving messages. Great idea (if only we had a cell phone.) Keep an eye out in the future- if I can get it together, I will blatantly rip off this idea and share Clio Quotes.

Eleri Ruth, 2 months old

12 lbs 2 oz
24 1/2 inches
75th - 90th percentile overall

We didn't have a blog until Clio was 10 months old, but leading up to it I did record milestones and observations in a notebook, which I recently found (and was surprised by just how much I had written.) As a second child, Eleri's milestones seem to be a bit overshadowed by her sister's: for one thing, the "firsts" are not as dramatic because they're first for Eleri but not now for Dave and I; and for another, milestones seem to grow with a child, so Clio's "firsts" just get bigger all the time. The first day of school. Dressing herself. Jumping off the steps. Using the phone or typing on the computer.

At two months old, Eleri is a wonderful, easy baby. She is calm, alert, and content. She loves to have her belly rubbed, like a puppy, and smiles and coos in response to close attention. She already sleeps through the night, and has recently discovered her thumb. She doesn't like to look to the right, so lately we've been "helping" by propping a pillow behind her to discourage her from flopping back to the left. She furrows her brow in a very concerned expression when presented with a lot of new stimulus, like the warm water in a bath, and has a very very sad frown when she's upset. She's an excellent burper.

Her signals are much easier to read than Clio's (or perhaps I'm just more tuned in with experience), which also leads to a low-stress, pleasant baby experience. Clio has been 100% Clio from birth; let's just hope the same is true with Eleri. We could all use someone this placid around here!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Miracle on 30th Street

My Mom often says that one of the most challenging thing about having two little ones is getting them to nap at the same time. This has often proved true for me, since entertaining Clio in the morning generally means an outing that involves the Bjorn- in which Eleri almost immediately conks out. When we get home and Clio goes to bed, Eleri wakes up, ready for action.

So imagine my delight yesterday afternoon when I encountered this inexplicable sight for FOUR HOURS:

You know the best part? It's happening again, right now.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Outift of the Week/ Snack of the Month

Anne gave Clio a tutu as a big sister present. A tutu with sparkles folded into the netting, and a purple satin bow. Clio insisted on putting it on immediately, over her dress, and kept grabbing handfuls of net with sparkles and saying, "I got them!"

We went downstairs together to get the camera, and at the bottom of the stairs, she found the extra box of Puffins that hadn't quite made it to our "pantry" (i.e. the overflow shelf in the basement that makes shopping at Costco a possibility). Puffins are her current favorite cereal, so she got very excited and said, "what's in here?" then insisted on carrying the box up our fairly narrow basement stairs- I was not allowed to help.

Once upstairs, she said "I want puffins," and I explained they were not for dinner, so she said "I want lunch!" I further explained that cereal is, in fact, for breakfast, so Clio declared, "Let's have breakfast!" Explaining that these meals are associated with a particular time of day was beyond me, but lucky for me she gave up and settled for putting the box on the counter (with the other box.)

I'll tell you, this kid doesn't miss a beat.