Thursday, February 26, 2009

Consider the Glowworm

My friend Sara has taken to making gear recommendations on her blog, which, considering most mom-blogs are read by other moms, is a particularly great idea. I was once almost inspired to write a product endorsement of my own for the Bebe au Lait, a "nursing cover for chic mothers," but as a busy nursing mother, never quite found the time. It was a gift from my aunt Molly, and at first I thought it was just a gimmick, though an adorable one. Who needs to carry an extra thing in their diaper bags when a blanket or burp cloth will do just fine, thank you very much? Well, as it turned out, there's something to be said for the bright fabric, easy to find in even the largest diaper bag when your baby is screaming-hungry; and the adjustable neck strap to keep the thing in place; and the terry-cloth pocket, for holding a stray pacifier and wiping up after a burp; and, most of all, the stiff insert at the top, like boning in a gown, that creates a window through which your baby can see you. So voila, product endorsement.

Most of Sara's recommendations have clearly been thoughtfully considered and
highly researched- like an idiosynchratic Consumer Reports boiled down for busy modern parents. I will, on occasion going forward, offer a slightly different service: sharing with you the gifts that I never would have bought myself, but which have been surprise hits.

Consider the glowworm.

We were given this gift twice- once for Clio by Dave's uncle Don and family, and once for Eleri by Adrianna, who works for my aunt and uncle, Missy and Jim. Now, as a re-interpreted relic of my own childhood,
(I remember playing with these things at way too advanced an age),

there should be a positive nostalgia factor.
But the new glowworm is, annoyingly, a BABY glowworm, and like so many toys these days it's super cutesy, with huge eyes and bubbly proportions, influenced, it would seem, by Japanese anime. (I was dismayed when I went to Target this weekend to pick up Memory and CandyLand, two games I loved as a kid that Clio has shown a marked interest in, to discover that a similar fate had befallen these classics.)

So where's the endorsement, you ask?

Eleri loves the thing. When you push it's belly and its face lights up, so does hers; then she laughs delightedly, grabs its ears, and tries to slow dance and make out with it simultaneously. Then she puts it down and quizzically tries to figure out why it glows in the first place. She can do this for hours.

One problem: she can't make it light up and sing all by herself. But Clio can. So I suppose I'm giving this an endorsement with the caveat that you must have an extra kid--in this rare case, a bossy kid is preferable, one who wants to "help" with everything--to actually help with this.

So thank you, Don Chevyoune and Michaela, and Victor and Adrianna, for introducing us to these heretefore unknown delights!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Perception = Reality

In a lovely Valentine's package from Great Granddad and Bonnie, Clio found a white satin purse embroidered with the word "Princess" in pink, and, perhaps even more exciting, this purse contained two boxes of Mexican candy hearts. Now, we don't really do candy in our house (Clio was full of awe and wonder- and loads of sugar- when she got a heart-shaped lollipop at her music class), but of course Clio wants to have every gift she receives. As the more lenient parent where food is concerned, I figured, what's the harm, really? And, much to Dave's dismay, I told her she could have the hearts after her lunch.

So after lunch, Clio declared she was ready to "do the hearts" and asked for some bowls.

She proceeded to count them, pour them, scoop them, organize them, and have us read them to her.

But guess what? It never once occurred to her to put them in her mouth.

Eleri was another story, though.

Luckily, Clio is an expert at taking things away from her sister, and this was no exception.

This morning, Clio got the heart "game" out again, and we did a little ethnographic experiment, grouping them by saying. Among my observations: there was one "amigo" to three "amigas," more "call me"s than "hug me" and "kiss me" combined, and, interestingly enough, the most common word or phrase in the two boxes was "dulce." When I pointed this out to Dave, he convincingly asked (in front of Clio), "why would this heart game say 'sweet' so many times?"

Why indeed.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Calling the Shot List

Clio used to love having her picture taken. Lately, it goes more like this:

Or she does her best to seize control and turn the tables on us, like this (you can ignore the middle 10 seconds or so where I try to get her to sing "The Grand Old Duke of York," which she does very well when she's in the mood):

But the other day, Eleri flopped across her lap to get her hands on a book or two, and Clio thought this was so hilarious, she demanded that I get out the camera.

And then she proceeded to ham it up, like this.


Now I'm sure there are times when it must seem like I do nothing but sit around and compare photos- but really, it's uncanny how often images repeat themselves. For example, coming home from Music class last week, Eleri fell asleep in her carseat, with this little "eggplant" hat on, and I had to take a picture because it looked so familiar- for good reason.

Here's Clio, same situation.

And then today I saw this new picture of Eleri, and thought to myself, she looks just like me.

When I was home for Christmas, I happened to have my mom scan one or two baby pictures. Check it out.


I was supposed to go to the movies tonight.
In fact, I'm supposed to be there right now.
It was supposed to be the cure for what ails me.
But instead, I drove around for 40 minutes looking for parking. By the time I conceded that I should just park a ways away and walk, there wasn't enough time left to walk from a ways away and still make the movie on time.

So I came home and looked at my "favorites" listings on the multiple listings service for Twin Cities real estate. For all the problems with sprawl, there's something to be said for multiplexes with PARKING.

It's funny: in one of our MANY conversations about leaving NYC in seek of an "easier life," I listed "accessible parking" (or you can walk to everything) on my list of amenities. Dave sort of laughed. I stand by it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

On "Eleri"

When Clio was born, we thought she would be a girl, and we thought she would be named Clara- just unusual enough, very pretty but not too sweet- but I took one look at her in the delivery room and said, I think her name is Clio. We debated for 24 hours (Violet and Alice were the other major contenders), but Clio she was and Clio she is and Clio she will be.

I remember once when she was about 15 months or so- she was walking stably but I was not yet pregnant with Eleri- we encountered another Clio, slightly older, at the pediatrician's office. The mother was up in arms; she acted as if I had taken something away from her and asked me, defensively, how I had come up with the name. (For the record, my friend Tim had an old friend named Clio who once offered to hire me in the photo department at Allure, where she was Photo Editor; her sister Isolde later hired me at Real Simple. I discovered only after the birth certificate was signed that that Clio's full name is Cliona, which is really Irish and very beautiful.) We were waiting for the same doctor and their appointment was first; when they came out the mother declared that Dr. Oppenheim had not two but THREE Clio's in her practice, and seemed to expect me to react in anger and alarm. I shrugged it off- my Clio is so thoroughly
Clio, it doesn't much matter how many other kids share this same name.

With Eleri we've never been quite so certain. I have moments even now when I look at her and think, are you really
Eleri? I had wanted Romy, and sometimes that seems right (though I had forgotten the Lisa Kudrow/ Mira Sorvino movie Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, which may have kept me off the name in the end.) Sometimes one of Clio's cast offs seems best: she could be an Alice. We also had some names on the list that seem appropriately solid and no frills in contrast to the musical Eleri, like Ada and Orly, both of which I still like. Maybe it's just the spelling: I never much liked names that ended in "i" but I loved that this was a celtic name. However, no one can pronounce it (which should be no surprise since ours is not the proper pronunciation of the Welsh name), and often people who haven't seen it written resort to the more common- or, I should say, the actual-spelling, Ellery.

And now, the name is, inexplicably, starting to pop up. An acquaintence in music class said her cousin just named her baby girl Ellery. On the Grey's Anatomy/ Private Practice cross-over event which coerced me to watch the latter for the first time (yes, I know that's exactly the audience-building intention of these cross-marketing endeavours; what can I say? I'm a sucker), a new mom was talking about the list of names she had picked out: "Lovely names like Sarah and Lila; and Ellery, which I had never heard before but I read it in a book and I thought it was so pretty." It is funny how these trends go: There were too many Emmas and Ellas and Elles, and even Elsies and Ellies and Evas and Eves, and somehow Ellery is related to those but still different enough.

And it's not that I need my chidren to have a completely unique name--I grew up Heather in the 1970s, for goodness sake--it's more that I worry that these other Ellery's will be so much more Ellery than mine. Hell, their names will even be spelled right.

Happy Valentine's Day

Driving Clio to school on Fridays, I often listen to NPR; of course, the stories have been all doom and gloom for the past several months, and ever since I quit my job without a clear plan as to what was next, listening to the stats about unemployment has been a bit like watching a train wreck: I can't bear the reality but can't quite convince myself to turn away. Yesterday was no exception. The host had a representative from the National Credit Counseling Center (or some such approximation), and the two had a lovely conversation about how financial stress is one of the leading causes of divorce today. Wonderful. They spoke about "financial infidelity"- where one spouse hides spending from the other- and other modern disasters of love in a poor economy. The guest went so far as to suggest that, in these tight times, the best gift we can give each other for Valentine's Day is an open, honest conversation about our financial situation. To quote Liz Lemon (Tina Fey's character on the awesome, Seinfeld-for-our-generation 30 Rock):


Yes, I'm sure it's true that we should all talk about these things. But really, on Valentine's Day? Now, we're not big on flowers and chocolates and glittery starlight around here, but seriously, I can't think of anything less romantic.

Except, perhaps, the day that I have had. We're potty training Clio and everyone has some kind of cold; consequently, I don't think I've dealt with so many bodily fluids in one day since Eleri was a tiny baby. To her credit, Clio started strong; after 3 perfectly-executed trips to the potty, I thought this was going to be a cakewalk. But then, she was playing tag with Dave and forgot she wasn't wearing a diaper- all over the front hallway floor. Later she had to poop and inexplicably started moving the potty towards me, instead of letting me come to it; let's just say I now know how all those city dog walkers feel cleaning up the sidewalk. Then we discovered whether pee (or carpet cleaner) makes a lasting impression on the new carpet--twice. I lost count of the replacement big girl underpants at some point, but I think this kid changed more today than J Lo at an awards show. Here she is in two of the selections:

But what really put me over the edge was Eleri, deciding to get in on the action during her last diaper change of the day: I started to remove her dipaer, she started to go; so I replaced the diaper but apparently she held it. When I took it off again and turned for a fresh one, she let fly all over the changing table. Now both girls are bathed and clean and we'll start again tomorrow. And maybe I'll manage to get a shower myself.

So I suppose it's true: parenting small children can minimize the romance just a tiny bit.

Happy Valentine's day, anyway.

And thank you to Grandma and Grandpa, Nonny and Poppa, MaMa, Uncle Brian, Aunt Maud, and cousins Lucia and Finn for sending valentine's. All stickers, books, stuffed animals, dancing bears, and new outfits have been a big hit! (See Eleri attacking a heart-studden bear, above.)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Apres Ski

Clio has been wearing last year's winter coat for much of this season, and as it's size 18-24 months, her wrists tend to be exposed to the elments and the zipper keeps splitting. I thought I'd take advantage of end-of-season-sales, but I missed them at Old Navy and Target- nothing but racks of empty hangers side by side with racks of bathing suits. (Bikinis! In January! This seems even more wrong for kids clothes; chances are good they're not going on any cruises, and by the time summer rolls around, they'll have outgrown the things anyway.) Baby Gap online came through, and I got these down-filled, fleece-lined coats (and snowpants!) for about $20/piece.

We're reading a lot, as always, and Clio has been borrowing phrases from her favorite stories; when she bundled into her new winter wardrobe, she patted herself down and announced, "it fits perfectly," which, I later realized, is how Curious George's Christmas Surprise Hat is described in Curious George in the Big City. As you can see, the book does not give any real context to what a perfect fit might look like. Now Clio is waiting for enough snow to merit the pants. We are heading to MN in a couple of weeks.... maybe she'll get lucky.

Apres Bath

I was joking recently that Clio and Eleri look just enough alike that I could get away with swapping in Clio baby photos for Eleri and no one would notice. There is this very sweet photo of Clio wrapped in a towel (sitting on the potty, but I figured no one needed to know), and I thought it would make a cute photo card to have shots of them both all clean and bundled.

Problem is, Eleri is a second child and never seems to have bathtime, so I figured I could use a Clio photo from the archive.
Today, when Eleri finally did get a bath (we took her to a valentine card making event at Clio's school yesterday and it was embarrasing how filthy and stinky she was), I tested my theory. While there is a definite resemblance, I think it's pretty clear who's who. But I'm their mom.


Maybe is Clio's new favorite word. She doesn't quite get the proper application of the term though- instead of perhaps yes, perhaps no, it's more like maybe if I ask using "maybe," I'll get a yes. For example, yesterday Clio came down from her nap, cozied up to me on the couch, and said, "maybe I'd like to watch a little Dora now?" And maybe she did.

and effective.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Your Guess is as Good as Mine

The couch faces the TV cabinet. Maybe they're waiting for Dora to come on. I know Clio often is.