Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat, Brooklyn Style

I have great memories of trick or treating in my suburban midwestern neighborhood. By the time we were in upper elementary school, we were allowed to go on our own, knocking door to door in a 1950s neighborhood of low-slung ranch houses, really and truly named Friendly Hills. I remember my college roommate, born and bred in Manhattan, telling me about trick or treating door to door within her high-rise apartment complex; to me, this was just unfathomable: half the excitement of Halloween came from the chill in the air, and that very particular smell - something like a bonfire of burning leaves - that would be completely lost indoors.

In Brooklyn, there aren't enough houses to go door to door, but most people don't live in large apartment complexes either, so kids trick or treat at the local businesses along the main commercial thoroughfares of 5th and 7th avenues.

Here's Clio exiting the Polish grocery (at 500+ varieties, they boast the most types of beer in Brooklyn!)

And here I am outside of, well, another Polish grocery, this one with lots of sausages in the window.

We also got treats at newsstands, coffee shops, laundromats, and the wine store. Here's Clio with Margo and Lydia, outside the health food store where we tried to corral them, somewhat unsuccessfully, into one shot. (Lydia's mom Liz claims she got it, so we'll see if I can get those from her to post.)

Dave and I were a little worried about the candy factor, and spent a long time last night discussing how to deal with it. Clio has never had candy, and while we both feel two is a bit young for it, I just hate the idea of putting her in a situation with lots of other kids where she's the only one who can't have something. But it worked itself out. The health food store gave out apples, natch, and Clio could not have been more thrilled.

At Has Beans, one of the local coffee shops, the barrista told me that Clio said "Happy Treat!" mixing together the days two main salutations, Happy Halloween and Trick or Treat. Getting an evening of family time with lots of friends was a happy treat indeed.

Happy Halloween!

Today was a very big day. To get Clio prepared, I ran through our itinerary last night before she went to bed. She made me repeat it again and again, and remembered the whole thing today. It went something like this: Breakfast, Car, School, Titi's House with the Kids, Home, Package from Great Granddad and Great Bonnie, Bumblebee costume, Playground with Lydia, Trick or Treat, party with lots of kids. IT is not generally our strategy to do so much in one day, but Halloween does happen to be my favorite all time holiday (although, I'm sad to report, dressing up myself was just beyond reach this year.)

Clio's school has a no-costume policy. While this makes perfect sense once they explain that toddlers and preschoolers are still working to establish the boundaries of fantasy and reality, and can become easily disturbed by costumes, it felt like a ba-humbug moment nonetheless. Luckily, Nonny had the great foresight to send this lovely Halloween dress (Clio particularly likes the "ghosts upside down") so she was as festive as can be. (It is, once again, coincidence that Eleri fully coordinates with her sister from top to bottom).

The special package from Great Granddad and Great Bonnie had this fabulous orange feather boa, but Clio's favorite thing was the card, which sang Bibbety Boppety Boo every time you opened it. She opened it- and closed it- and opened it- a LOT. Do you notice a theme these days?

Clio was also fond of reporting on their costumes. When people asked what Eleri was, Clio said "she's a pumpkin. She's wearing the pumpkin I had when I was a baby."

Which is true; here she is:

I'll fill you in on the main event, up next.

The Games Children Play

Clio seems to have reached the age where she likes to play organized games. In fact, she likes to play them over and over again. Her favorite of these games is known simply as "find me." Here's how it goes:

First, Clio "hides" in one of very few spots (depending on where we are in the house): behind the TV cabinet, behind a magazine while sitting at the kitchen table, and in Dave's closet or behind the towels in the bathroom if we're upstairs.
Then she says "Find me" and the person obeying this command must "look for her" all around the room. I prefer to consider this a purely verbal exercise, so I will sit on the couch, for example, and put forth a running narrative of places Clio might be, but is not: "Is Clio... under the table? Noooo. Is Clio... behind her easel? Noooo. Is Clio... in the shoe cabinet? Noooo." (Sometimes she helps with the refrain of "noooo.") I'll throw in some really silly hiding spots just for fun, like "swinging from the chandelier" or "up on top of the refrigerator" or "in Stella's cradle." Eventually, she'll say "Here I am!" and then we make a big fuss. (Keep in mind that you can see the hiding spot behind the TV cabinet if you are sitting on the couch, making the hiding and finding premise a little nonsensical... unless you are just two.)

This is a game that Clio "invented" with me, and the first time Dave was asked to play, he was a little surprised by what comes next. Clio does not emerge from her hiding spot, but looks you right in the eye and says "now find me AGAIN" and you repeat the whole exercise, even though she's hiding in the same place and everyone obviously knows where she is. Dave even tried to get her to hide someplace else, but to Clio this is not an important (or, come to think of it, even a viable) part of the game. He did succeed in getting her to try to find him, though. Here she is, counting to eleven.

(Apparently, "round numbers" is a lost concept to a child. Who ever decided we should count just to 10, anyway?)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Like Trying to Catch the Wind

An unusual thing happened last night: when I uploaded photos from our bigger, faster camera, I came upon this series I had almost forgotten I took. At first, I was disappointed to see that they were so overexposed. But then I sat with them for a bit--the light and motion so evocative of a fleeting moment-- and found myself crying.

I took these in my bedroom in the late afternoon, when the early fall light was streaming in through the window and Clio was chasing the dust motes in the air. I don't know what day this was, or where Dave or Eleri were, or how I got this gift of a moment--a two year old forgetting to be so very
two, and instead jumping for joy over such a simple thing--but something about both the rarity of the moment and the fact that I had already forgotten it put in my mind that song lyric from the car commercial, "like trying to catch the wind."

If I were one for labeling my posts, I think I would need a special label for all the posts where I marvel at how quickly it all goes, because it just keeps getting the best of me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Our Girls

Something a little lighter: The Zoo

So, before I sent out that invitation to my pity party, Dave and I were spending most of our time managing okay; we even still get out there to do some pretty fun things sometimes. Like go to the zoo. This is an excellent weekend activity because the Prospect Park zoo is a very manageable size for a toddler (sans stroller) and a parent lugging a 3 month old--who happens to be in the 95th percentile for weight--in a baby bjorn. It was also fun to make a return trip because Clio seems much more capable of taking part in all that a children's zoo has to offer, and it's always fun to see how much they've grown.

For example, last year she used the giant turtle shell as a prop to practice her standing,

This year she's full on walking, thank you very much,

and even testing out the shell herself. (As the aforementioned parent with the baby bjorn, I was off the hook to participate this time. If you really want to see me as a giant turtle, you'll have to look up the post from last summer.)

Last year she was VERY shy about the petting zoo.

And this year? Well... I guess we can't expect progress on all fronts.

There were plenty of activities that we didn't even bother with last year, like this long-jump, where you can figure out what animal you can jump as far as.

If I remember correctly, Dave was a jackal. As much as Clio looooves jumping, she didn't really get the concept of jumping in a straight line and measuring. Oh well, maybe next year.

Clio was also pretty interested in the Baboons. Here she is, talking to the Mac Daddy.

I believe she was saying "look at me!" but maybe I'm confusing this moment with oh, the million other moments in which she makes that comment.

The petting zoo has this cow-milking display where you can actually get some kind of liquid out of a simulated udder. I love that it's double sided.

And, The Daddy got to show off his farm roots, showing his little girl the ropes.

As always, the best part of the whole day was the handwashing station. But I don't have a picture of that because really, how boring.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Another Installment in the Working Mom Chronicles

Here I am, at the office. I have a new schedule, which is a long story (and possibly a blog post to come), but what you need to know is that I am working remotely thursday mornings and in the office Thursday and Friday afternoons.

Yesterday morning, I settled in to a nice, comfy chair at a Starbucks near Clio's school, turned on my computer, and discovered... that there is no free wireless. I thought hotspots were everywhere! Never mind, I thought to myself, I have some good reading materials on my desktop. As I opened a study on creating Demand for the Arts, my laptop informed me that I was running on reserve power, which lasts about long enough to read the message that it's going to shut you down, before shutting you down. Luckily, I found a new spot at a table with an outlet; unluckily, my power cord was nowhere to be found (until I got to the office in the afternoon and found it on my desk.) A morning well spent.

Now, here I sit, pumping away, trying again to read about creating Demand for the Arts. Until suddenly, I hear a "crack" and notice a sudden loss of suction.... What a surprise: a broken breast pump. Milk everywhere, yada yada yada. So I start to pack up my things to head home and get this milk out the natural way, except I'm the last staff member in the office and a freelancer is trying to print a funding letter that has to go out TODAY, and there's no toner in the printer/copier. I tell her to just use the other printer but guess what? It's not on and doesn't appear to have a power button (seriously. neither of us can figure this out. there's a red button with an X but if anything, that's just the off button.) So we find the toner and learn how to install it and get it up and running. At which point I realize that I have three days worth of expressed breastmilk that is likely going bad. Why? Because I can't seem to remember to bring the cute little cooler and the fun little ice packs that come with the electric breast pump, but since this stuff is only good for so many days, I have to take it home and get it into the freezer today. Because of the broken pump, I had already packed all the little bags of milk into one nice big ziplock bag (because all I need is milk exploding everywhere on the subway... knock wood) sans ice, figuring it would be fine for an hour. When I went to throw away the paper towel I used to clean up the milk on my desk, I noticed that the garbage was overflowing. So milk back in the refrigerator while I go desk to desk and empty everyone's trash.

Seriously, people. Two children is more than enough.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Eleri Ruth, 3 months old

Another month, another check up.

13.5 pounds

25 inches

90th-95th percentile

I would just like to note that our good-natured baby laughed throughout the appointment: when the nurse weighed and measured her, when the Doctor poked and prodded her, and even when she got a light shined in her eyes and a tongue depressor stuck in her mouth ("Even now?" The Dr. said. "But
everyone hates this!")

Now and Then

I'm finding myself pretty nostalgic these days.

Having a new baby makes you so aware of how much your older child has developed in such a short time, and just how remarkable that growth is. Looking at a lot of old photos, I find myself equally blown away by the physical growth.

Likewise, bringing out all the old baby clothes and gear makes daily comparisons unavoidable (supported by the fact that a two-year-old naturally wants to play with all of it once again.)
This morning , I got out a winter hat for Eleri, and Clio (whose memory does seem to go way back) identified it as her own; when I held it up to demonstrate that it wouldn't fit her, I was as surprised as anyone that the hat was indeed about a third the size of Clio's head. It doesn't seem like so long ago that she wore it every day.

Here's Clio on her old playmat around this time two years ago, and now.

Self Portraits

These span the last six months or so. After seeing the terrible results once, why do we keep on doing this? While I often have the excuse that Clio made me, I don't suppose I can blame toddler all the time.

Can I?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Big Girl Bed

After much ado, including several unsuccessful trips to Ikea, lots of internet research, one perfect but back-ordered "modern" toddler bed, and many plans to build our own, this weekend Dave simply got in the car, returned to Ikea, and came home in record time with one Kritter bed, one mattress (the last one in stock, he reported with glee), and one white sheet. He put it together in the living room while Clio napped, and I brought her down for the big reveal. She thought this was great.

Here she is as we said "bye bye crib," and rolled it into Eleri's room.

She patiently read a book on her old crib mattress while we brought the frame in,

then helped Daddy to get the slats in place.

Trying it out was a joy

(less so when we told her that jumping on it was not part of the deal.)

The easy part may have ended there, though. The first night, her leg got stuck between the bedframe and the wall. The next night, she was up until all hours doing god knows what: we're so conditioned from our age-old policy to leave her up there for 2 hours at napttime, sleeping or not, that I'm not sure it occurred to either of us to intervene. Last night, we did think to take her toys out of there as we turned out the light. But tonight, we heard a big thump around 9:30, and when Dave did go in there, we confirmed that she had fallen out of bed.

I'm sure that, soon enough, this too will be like an old habit.

Next up: getting Eleri into the crib without Clio wailing "take her out!"

One thing at a time.

When 3 Blogs Collide

There's such a funny self-reflexivity to the mom-blog world. We all link to each others' sites, carry on conversations through "comments" (when we're not following threads in our google group), and because we also manage to get together for some real-world interaction, sometimes the content has a bit of overlap as well.

Take the Queens County Farm outing. We were lucky enough to tag along with Statia, Peter, Zoe and Lincoln (Statia is a regular as she worked here summers in College AND her Dad runs the Sausage truck where we all reveled in the glory of Italian Sausage, Kielbasa, and Bangers-- on the house); another Mom's group friend, Stephanie, came along with husband Jay and son Dylan.
The result? Three linked blogs with basically the same pictures of a group of two year olds picking apples from bins, playing a game of chase, and rolling around in the grass.

You know what, though? You kind of can't get enough of city kids enjoying a day on the farm, so here's my version:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On Being a Working Mom

I recently decided (under the influence of Stacey and Clinton, no doubt), that there's no excuse not to look good every day. To facilitate this new goal, I've been doing some shopping, taking care of some tailoring, and keeping my boots in shape. And it's already paid off: while my calendar today consisted only of internal meetings, I was pulled last minute into a meeting with our local congresswoman, and I'm glad I'm not wearing jeans.

However, I have also recently decided that there's no reason I can't multi-task while pumping at work. Dave has been on me to read the editorials in the Times (he'll leave multiple tabs open in Firefox with recent Opinions to encourage this act), so I started logging on to while pumping in my office.

Do you see where this is going? If you guessed breastmilk all over my new brown cords, you win a prize. To add insult to injury, while cleaning up I forgot to close the "door" to my office (also know as a sliding-glass semi-opaque panel with no sound-proofing whatsoever), and wound up spilling milk all over my desk as I tried to transfer it from bottle to storage bag while discussing cell-phone overages and expense policy with my gay 25-year old colleague, who was utterly horrified by my mom-at-work disaster.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Sister Act

So many posts, so little time. I'm supposedly multi-tasking right now, organizing blogposts while I print out the papers I need to grade; somehow, the blog part is taking over despite the paper-grading being on a deadline.

There are both events to report on (more from the Queens County Farm, a trip to the Prospect Park Zoo, the relatively uneventful change to a Big Girl Bed, Clio's first pee in the pottie, etc.), and issues to air ("On firing your babysitter," "On wondering if you want to be a stay at home mom," etc.), but I am suddenly SO exhausted, my brain SO muddled, that for now I'm going to rely on video to tell the stories for me.

A little context for this one: Clio wanted me to take a picture of her with her sister. While she was trying to get it all set up, I surreptitiously recorded the action with the video function of our digital camera. You can hear Dave whisper, about halfway through "Are you recording this?" Oh, yes. I will say, Clio's effect on Eleri seems much more pronounced on video than it did sitting right in front of her. My favorite part- and I'm pointing it out only because it is easy to miss- is at the very end, when Clio is "helping" Eleri. If you listen closely, you can hear Clio say "push...push" as she does indeed push the pacifier into her sister's mouth... perhaps a little less gently than we might like.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

From The Archive

November, 2007. Clio wants Strawberries.
It's shocking how much they change in a year.

In contrast, this morning at breakfast Clio wanted a "big fork." When I said no, she said, "Daddy, when you finish with your fork, you give it to me, okay?"

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


A few weeks ago, Eleri found her thumb. She has developed amazing control over it, and can now get it into her mouth pretty much whenever she's upset.

Now, self-soothing is an excellent thing. With Clio, we decided early on that pacifiers were bad. Encouraging her to learn how to calm herself seemed like a gift that would keep on giving. (When talking about this today, a colleague suggested that we need to continually figure out how to self-sooth to survive in life.)

Fast forward two years, and as we watch the development of our second thumbsucker, we realize the drawbacks: leaving the soothing in their control also leaves the weaning in their control, and while you can take away a pacifier, you can't exactly take away the thumb. As with so many things the second time around, our philosophy switched in favor of convenience, and we have really tried to get Eleri hooked on the paci (bobo, sousou, nuk, whatever), but she simply prefers her thumb. The Doctor says not to worry about it (yet), and that they tend to outgrow it on their own, but looking through old photos, it seems that the likelihood that Clio will have her thumb in her mouth has only
increased over time. Although maybe it's just photographs; at the mall with Marni last weekend I passed a Gap advertising a casting call, and mused about sending in Clio's photos (you never know, right?), until I remembered the WallMart photo experience this past spring: the poor photographer had to bribe Clio's thumb out of her mouth for every shot!

Clio's Thumb. A love story in photos: