Saturday, January 31, 2009

Eleri Ruth, 6 months old

17 pounds, 2 ounces
26 inches

75th percentile

Okay, so really you're almost 7 months, but because we had yet another well visit switched out for a sick one, your checkup got a little delayed. Let's see, milestones: blowing rasberries, check. Sitting, or "tripoding," check. "Da da da da da," check. Laughing, double check.

Looking good, kid.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Mommy, I want a snack
Okay, Clio. Let me put you down so I can make it.
Don't put me down!
Well, I'm holding you with two hands. How can I make a snack with no hands?
Maybe your shoulders can make my snack.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Two Sisters

busy, busy, busy

Clio has been a very busy little girl (she recently was called a "spitfire" by another parent at our day care, and more often than not these days, people encounter Clio and then look at us with sympathy and a phrase along the lines of "you'll be in BIG trouble come the teen years. Oh, don't think I don't know).

I have to admit, I've been too exhausted and brain dead to take note and distill her many moments into clever anecdotes or poignant observations, hence the silence here in the blogosphere. (Not to mention the fact that my brain is racing with the realization that I really won't have a job in about a month and that I really don't know what I'm going to do next, but I have to do something.)

So here is a somewhat random collection of a few of her favorite recent antics- just to ensure that I will find my way back to some sort of regular updates.

Here's Clio chewing on one of Eleri's toys. Clio still believes sharing goes in one direction- hers- and while Eleri is not allowed to use any of Clio's old toys, Clio has decided that she may help herself to Eleri's new ones. (Eleri, ever the second child, couldn't care less. Just give her a stick or her own sock and she'd good to go.)

For about one whole weekend, Clio only wanted to sit backward. I don't know why. But she sat there with her animals and books lined up in front of her for long stretches of time, entertaining herself; who am I to complain?

Clio LOVES the snow. (One point, Minnesota.) She really, really loves it. Ice, too. (okay, let's give Minnesota 10 points for winter). She especially loves to "sweep" it in our front "yard." Especially when we get home from day care and I'm stuck standing there with Eleri dangling in the Bjorn. As you might guess, Clio is NOT easy to convince to come inside. And di I mention Eleri in the bjorn? Yes, kind of an obstacle to picking up a 2 1/2 year old, especially when she goes all dead weight on you.

Clio also continues her love of filling empty containers. I strongly believe she gets this from her father, who never met a clean surface he didn't want to cover in crap. In case you can't tell, this is Eleri's car seat, filled with about a bazillion stuffed animals. Serves me right for leaving it on the car- oh, to have a mudroom!


Mommy, I want to sit in your lap.
Eleri is in my lap. Why don't you sit in Daddy's Chair?
I'll sit on Daddy's lap.
Well, Daddy's not here.
I want to sit on Daddy's ears.
Daddy's ears are not here, either.
I want to sit on Daddy's eyes.
Daddy's eyes are with Daddy in Illinois.
I want to sit on Daddy's chest.
(and so forth, down to the toes)

Mommy, we went through all of Daddy's choices!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eugene "PaPa" Wood

Dave's grandfather passed away last night.

I had the pleasure of meeting him just three times, for Christmas in 2005, 2006, and this past year; on this visit, he was struggling to recover from a fall and his passing should not have been a shock, yet I felt a deep despair when I heard the news. A number of people have been lost this year who I knew better or encountered more in my life, but PaPa was the first in a direct line to my daughters to pass in their short lifetimes. Perhaps that explains this unexpected grief.

PaPa was a big man with a touch of a southern drawl and a warm sense of humor. He had a collection of baseball bats that covered all the walls of his garage. He got himself a 4-wheeler in his seventh or eighth decade, and used it to peruse his property. He took loving care of his wife Ruth. At the end, he charmed the pants off everyone at the hospital where he was enduring physical therapy and thinking about taking his leave.

Last week when we were at the hospital for Eleri, a man bearing a striking resemblance to PaPa was wheeled through the xray waiting area on a stretcher. Clio looked at me and said, "Mommy, where is Grandma's Daddy going?"

At the time, I found this remarkable- that she remembered PaPa from her brief encounter over Christmas, that she had simply grasped the great-grandather concept I found it so difficult to explain- but now, I find it profound.

He will be missed.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Happy Wheezers

I took Eleri to see the head of pediatric pulmonology at Columbia yesterday, and the good news is, she's not seriously ill and she will be okay. The bad news is, she might be sick a lot in the short term, it might require further hospitalizations, and we can't do much to prevent it.

Here's the scoop as I understand it:

Basically, when she gets sick (as all kids do), her body can't handle
the mucous it produces, so her breathing is compromised and she's
more prone to infection. The cause is either small airways or sensitive
lungs. Small airways she will outgrow, as they grow with her, and the
problem will cease by the time she's 3, if not before. If it's sensitive lungs,
it likely means asthma; the treatment is albuterol, which we're already
doing with no success. She would, however, grow into the treatment.
There's no way to determine which it is until she grows out of one or
into the other.
For now, when she gets sick we have to watch for certain symptoms
(rapid breathing, chest retractions or "pulling") that indicate a trip to
the pediatrician; the pediatrician then has to watch certain thresholds
(such as blood-oxygen saturation) to determine if she needs to be
hospitalized for monitoring and to receive oxygen. If she's hospitalized
a number of times over the coming months, the Dr. feels there will be a
pattern established, giving him more information to go on towards a
In terms of preventative measures, the best he could suggest was talking
her out of daycare to minimize her exposure.

As with all her encounters in the various hospitals and doctors offices she's
been to in her short life, Eleri impressed the pulmonologist with her sunny
disposition. I told him how confusing it was for us as parents, because her
general contentment in the midst of alarming symptoms sometimes clouds
our sense of how worried we should be.

He said this is common enough that there's a term for kids like her:
Happy Wheezers.
I guess, all things considered, I'm okay with that.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

On Context

Having a blog is a funny thing.

As Arianna Huffington reported to Jon tewart, it is meant to be both intimate and immediate; as photographs have always done, it fixes you in moment after moment, but what feels new is the inclusion of an immediate response to them. I remember when I went to school in Switzerland when I was 17, one of my roommates kept a journal, but unlike my own elaborate emotional accounts of my experiences, she simply wrote down what she did each day. She claimed to have problems with her short-term memory; for her, the daily log was about literally fixing each moment, without interpretation, as something to come back to one day to actually put back together, or re-member, her life.

If I had written each day this week, you would have gotten something of an emotional roller coaster as Eleri got sick again, and went through a similar series of events as we experienced at Christmas: chest x-ray Tuesday, "cleared" on Wednesday, spiked a fever Thursday, chest x-ray and hospital admission Friday, monitored Saturday, discharged Sunday. Each day brought it's own series of emotional reactions, like free association. But today, I can convey it all as a simple list because in a way, it's all behind us (Eleri is home again), but in a way it is all ahead of us (we don't know what's wrong), and the details of the journey don't matter. On Tuesday, we'll go to a specialist in pediatric pulmonology and hope he can tell us something. (More specifically, we hope he'll tell us she's just fine, that she's had some bad luck, that she'll outgrow it, no harm done. Or that he knows just what's wrong and how to treat it.)

Speaking from this moment in-between feels strange; I never quite got back in the rhythm of blogging after the holidays, yet I'm aware, each day, of what I would write if only I had the time, energy, or wherewithal to get down here and type something. I've been missing it. On Wednesday, when our pediatrician called to say the x-ray looked clear, I thought about finally posting about Eleri's ordeal over the holidays, and sharing, for posterity, some of the details and photos from the hospital, such as the crib they dug up from the basement which distinctly resembled the cages lab monkeys often escape from in the movies. Now I almost feel compelled to post anything
else - the funny Clio-isms I've been capturing lately, forgotten photos from the holidays- but those stories are different once you have this other context. (Clio: "Holy Cow. Holy dog, holy cat. Holy LION!!!! Holy LION!!!!)

They're happening, too, and I don't even know that I think about them differently, but to post funny Clio quotes or a photo of her neon orange sled from Morrison ends up seeming inappropriate when you post them
while her baby sister is in the hospital. So instead, while Dave was with Eleri, I did 10 loads of laundry and organized the pantry in our basement. And he told me that the Silver Monkey Cage crib is not so unlike the cribs they have at NYU. It would have made a good post before I knew that. But now it kind of makes a sad post, doesn't it?

Oh, what the heck, here's Clio, dressed in Dave's toddlerhood snowsuit (yes, Barb still has it!) just before she took me down the hill for our only run on her new sled (it was very, very cold).
The truth is, this IS what she was doing while Eleri was in the hospital the first time.

And this is what she was doing while Eleri was in the hospital the second time.

And honestly, there's nothing wrong with that.
Just to put all our minds at ease, here's Eleri a few days ago.
The weird thing is how perfectly happy she continues to seem, despite the junky lungs and the difficulty breathing.

We'll keep you all updated.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Clio: "Go like this" (makes a scrunched up sour face)
Mommy makes the face
Clio: "It's sour?"
Mommy: (playing along), "yes, it's really sour!"
Clio: "Oh, mine's not too sour."

Sleep, Interrupted

As recently reported, Clio now knows how to work our doorknobs, and can therefore get out of her room at any time, and particularly during her nap or at night, when she's supposed to be sleeping. This actually proved useful for about a week when, for unknown reasons, she was suddenly waking up soaked through around 4 am (in her diaper. what will we do once she's potty trained???) It was good that she could come in, alert us to the situation, and get it taken care of. (Of course, stripping a toddler bed and locating clean sheets at 4 am leaves something to be desired, but I guess it's all part of the deal, huh?)

But then she stopped waking up wet and started simply waking up. I read somewhere what not to do: do not let that child into your bed under any circumstances, or you will NEVER GET THEM OUT. I try to heed this advice in my groggy state, and will myself out of the bed into our freezing house to run Clio down the hall back to her own little bed. I usually wake up right around the time she appears in our doorframe; since she's pretty wobbly in the middle of the night, I at least have a few minutes to pull on some pants. The other night, however, I found myself pulled from a deep sleep only to open my eyes and find Clio staring right at me. Her face is just about level with our mattress, giving us a little too much direct eye contact for the wee hours.

Let's just hope this is a phase.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Clio Grace, Photographer

Clio got a digital camera for Christmas (thanks, Grandma and Grandpa). It's taken her a while, but she's starting to get the hang of which buttons to push to do what. (Early on, she just kept turning the thing on and off because the power button made such a great noise.)

She also spent some time pressing the correct buttons without necessarily pointing the camera at something she actually wished to capture.

Occasionally, she takes pictures of Dave and I,

and we get a sort of Clio's-eye view of the world.

But mostly she wants to take Eleri as her subject. She finds it something of a challenge to get--and keep--her little sister in the frame.

And when she does manage, the flash just seems to get the best of everyone.

Oh, elusive Eleri.

Portrait of a Mom as a Young Girl

In keeping with the recent tutu images, my mom sent along this picture of me that she just came across. The bathing suit and tutu combo is a real winner.... almost as good as Clio in tutu and full winter gear!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Year in Pictures

Somehow, I never manage to do one of those excellent photo holiday cards, even though I love getting them (please keep us on your mailing list even though we're not reciprocating!) I especially love rifling through the card displays at other people's houses during the holiday season, whether kept in a bowl on a coffee table, on a special card tree, or displayed as a refrigerator gallery with magnets-- the photos that people choose to share tell such a story, and seeing cards from all the people in a family's life (that manage to produce cards!) in one place tells its own story as well.

What I do manage to do is put together what I call the Christmas photo book, a book that tells the story of our year in pictures. The inspiration book was one my aunt Missy actually put together for me and Dave to give our parents as a gift on the eve of our wedding; it was amazing to see our story through the eyes of a relative and friend who saw our developing relationship at close range (we titled it Dave and Heather So Far...), and wonderful to share that story with the people who have know and loved us since birth, but who happen to live a little further away. Opening it, I believe both our moms got a little teary to feel like they got a more personal glimpse at our adventures.

So each year since Clio came along, I have continued this tradition- for us, for our parents and grandparents, and for our daughters (Clio already loves nothing better than looking at these books of herself; and I hope they will be meaningful records to her in the future.) I'm particularly happy with this year's edition because it tells an emotional story through portraits that runs parallel to, but does not repeat, the stories this blog has told.

The software that Missy introduced us to, MyPublisher, has a new feature that allows you to share your books online. So go ahead and take a look at our year in pictures; just click here, and when you see the photo of the book's cover, click on the little icon below that says "2-page view", then the forward arrow to proceed.

Mom, Barb, Granddad and Bonnie, fear not: your hard copies are finally in the mail!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Meaning of Christmas

On the 8-hour Drive from Morrison to Carbondale on Christmas Day, Dave and I took a vote, which was unanimous: Worst Christmas Ever. This, of course, had to do with Eleri's double pneumonia, with Pete's stomach flu, with the power outages, ice storms, and driving weather that generally looked like this, or worse:

All of which, in hind sight, makes me feel like a complainer, and makes me wonder if we've all kind of forgotten what Christmas is about. My friend Statia was saying at our last Mom's night how much there actually is to Christmas, and how difficult she found it to explain all the elements of this holiday to a kid: flying reindeer, a fat man coming down the chimney, a tree covered with lights, and who is this Jesus character, anyway?

When we were leaving the hospital on Christmas Eve, the staff gathered around Eleri's car seat to coo over her one last time, and to
see her off.

Earlier in the day, one of the nurses had presented us with a wrapped present, topped with a bow, which turned out to be a little pink stocking with a tiny teddy bear tucked into a pocket, and the words Baby's First Christmas across the top. "I was at the store last night," she said; "I saw this and thought, 'oh she just has to have it, especially if she's in the hospital for Christmas.'" The gesture was very kind, and as we left the hospital with our baby who had touched everyone in the Morrison Community Hospital, I realized that the first Christmas was, in fact, a baby's, and for many people it is still about a baby who changed the world.

On the pagan side of the holiday, I also found myself thinking about the trope of the Tree. When he was little, Dave nixed the idea of a Christmas Tree (I guess he
was an early adopter of the Green movement). This year, when it looked like we would stay in Morrison for Christmas, apart from Barb's parents and brother, with whom she has never, as far as I know, missed a Christmas, Barb and I both had the same idea: we needed a tree. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Peterson house would have its very own honest to goodness Christmas tree, and we would buck up and throw ourselves a tree trimming party.

In New York, you can buy a tree on the sidewalk outside just about any grocery store or CVS (once when Clio and I passed a lot after school, I told her how good the pines smelled; she threw her whole body into the pile of trees and emerged with the declaration: "YUCKY!"); in Morrison, you either cut down a tree on your own property (Barb's preferred method) or you drive on over to the nearest tree farm.
When Dave came home with a tiny little tree in a pot, so it could be planted after the holiday, I was instantly reminded of A Charlie Brown Christmas, where Charlie Brown is sent out, much like Dave, to bring home the holiday centerpiece and, much like Dave, he comes back with a dinky little evergreen.

In the cartoon, Charlie Brown is lambasted for his choice: it is the 1950s or 60s, and brightly colored tinsel trees are all the rage. But of course Charlie Brown's choice is more about love than it is about aesthetics or commercialism, and when his friends all band together to decorate it, the little tree transforms into the largest, most beautiful tree around (at least, this is my memory of the story.) I would say that our tree, hung with the plastic-cow lights that Dave had back in college and photo-ornaments that Clio and Barb made together, was transformed by this same Christmas magic.
I don't have an "after" shot, but I'm not so sure the spirit of the tree can be captured.

Of course, the holidays are mainly about connecting with loved ones, and we did manage to get Clio and Eleri some quality time with 4 grandparents, 4 great-grandparents, 1 step-great grandmother, 2 great-aunts, 2 great-uncles, 2 aunts, 2 uncles, a first cousin once removed, and her two cousins.
Grandma Barb has retained many of Dave and Derek's original toys and gear over the years, and when she pulled out Memory, the Mommy and Baby animal matching game, I was brought right back to Christmas Eve, circa 1979 or so, when my cousin Christine and I received matching white rabbit fur hats and muffs from our own Nonny and wore them all night with our pajamas while playing the newly minted Memory in the long hallway connecting one end of the house to the other, and I realize that for me, Christmas has always been about cousins.

When I arrived in Minnesota from Illinois, my brothers and their families came to my parents' house for another round of Christmas celebration, and I had the fur-hat flashback again when I took these pictures of Clio and Lucia in their matching tutus in front of our-yes-vintage silver tinsel tree, just like the ones Sally really wanted in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
And while I couldn't find the picture that I know exists of Christine and I playing Memory, I did find these, which tell the story equally well.

And I know that we will remember this holiday in many ways (not the least of which will be a plaque that Pete might have carved for the tree once it is planted, which will read The 2008 Christmas Memorial Tree: It's Always Something), but you would be hard pressed to match the happy photos from the last two weeks with the list of things that went wrong, and I know we will not remember this as the Worst Christmas Ever. In fact, I no longer believe there could be such a thing.

Merry christmas, everyone.

Two Ruths

We went to Carbondale.

Despite a list of hurdles so long that Dave's Dad said it would take "weeks just to write this in my diary," it was, without question, the right decision.

Among other moments that we Petersons will keep and cherish for ourselves, Ruth Wood met her great-granddaughter, Eleri Ruth Peterson, for the first time.