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."