Sunday, May 31, 2009

Flip Book

Yesterday Clio asked to be pushed so high on the swings, and as she was dangling forward at a right angle to the ground, she looked like a big kid to me, like, I don't know, an eight year old. I had this sudden inspiration to make one of those old-fashioned flipbooks of Clio swinging, only i would use photos over the years so she would swing back and forth but also forward through time; I went through all of our old photos, and while I have photographed Clio in the swing a LOT, I didn't get a single swinging picture last summer, leaving a sort of critical gap in the plan. Maybe I'll try it with Eleri....

For now, you kind of get the idea.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Under the Table (And Dreaming)

Putt Putt

I happened to turn on New York 1 this morning to see if I could catch the weather, and instead saw a short clip about this one-day, artist-designed mini-golf course in an industrial loft in our neighborhood. There's a whole string of commercial buildings along the waterfront all owned by one developer; his daughter turned one of them into affordable artist studios, and this was, as they said, a way for the artists to "introduce themselves to the neighborhood."

We strolled over this afternoon, and I must say, it was really nice to be close to the action for once. There was a smattering of hipsters mixed with a bunch of neighborhood families, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Especially Clio.

After giving the putter a go on the first hole, she abandoned it in favor of simply rolling balls backwards on the slopes that lead away from many of the hole; more like bowling without the pins. She thought this was one giant playground, and took it upon herself to climb on or over or under or around every single hole.

There was a lot of effort to get her off of holes before anything broke (though, to be honest, we witnessed some other accidental vandalism and it didn't seem to be that big of a deal.) As for Clio's favorite hole: There was this furry critter one,

where all those little guys were actually wriggling madly in circles (Clio tried awfully hard to catch them; I didn't even try to answer her questions about how and why they were moving the way they were)

Which I think tied with the trampoline one. Yup, a whole trampoline, with a little sock hole off to one side for the golf ball. The thing was low to the ground, more like a mini-tramp, and without pads on the springs; we waited for Clio to fall and crack open her skull on the concrete floor for about 2.5 seconds, then convinced her that it was time to move on. To a very special rice crispy treat.

There was one hole that appeared to be just for adults--there were alcoholic beverages somehow involved--and wasn't scheduled for use until 9pm, but Clio thought she should get to take home all of its leopard-painted balloons. Or at the very least, this one.

We finally got her out of there--with minimal damage (though she did knock over the coordinating leopard bowling ball)--by telling her we'd go down the block to the playground and make water balloons.

Which we did.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

To Eleri, Adventuress

When Clio was just 2 months old, I brought her to Minnesota, where she met, among others, my childhood friends Lizzie and Carrie and their kids. Greta was about 18 months old at the time and very interested in the baby; I remember Carrie saying to her daughter to be careful, that Clio was not "the rough-and-tumble model" like her.

It's true, Clio is a more sensitive type; but you, Eleri, are our little brute, big and strong. From your sturdy beginnings and impatient entry to the world, you have had an appetite for adventure. Seeing what there is to see has been your siren call.

You are the one who rolled off the bed as a baby. You are constantly diving for things that interest you, away from whoever is doing their best to hold your squirming form. Our little world is not enough for you; I keep saying, maybe there's an age-appropriate developmental toy we can get to engage you, to distract you, to keep you out from underfoot for a while. Your sister, though not particularly cautious, does her exploring through books, always has; an armchair traveler like me. You think books are skateboards, snowboards, locomotives to get you where you're going. Perhaps this is why I'm so in love with you these days: you're like your father, eager for adventure, fearless, and delighted by what you find wherever you look. Clio and I will live in imagination and tell each other stories. Maybe you will be the one to notice all the details of the real world, like Dave examining the sunken beauty of rotting fruit with his camera, or jumping on the subway on September 11, 2001, pointing himself towards Ground Zero like a compass seeking north, while I sat in my living room in Brooklyn watching the events unfold on television, serving the neighbors chicken skewers and other appetizers prepared for a surprise 30th birthday party that would not happen that night, and disallowed my imagination from going to a place that may or may not have been worse than the reality of lower Manhattan.

We were just thinking that it would be fun--and telling--to predict your future careers at certain intervals. Right now, we think Clio will grow up to be a marine biologist, a vet, a day care provider, an actress. Maybe you will be a mountain climber. An engineer. A jock.

Because Clio and I are alike--tempermental, dramatic, stubborn--and because she reminds me of traits I may be sensitive of in myself, I imagine we will be at odds plenty. Right now, you are easier, and I think this sways me towards you; while I can simply pick you up and move you away from trouble, with Clio, everything is a debate, a practice in matching will for will, and I must tread softly. But later, if you continue on the path you have set in your short life so far, you may be the bigger challenge, harder to protect; how do you tread softly if your daughter is climbing mountains?

For now, I love the balance I see between the two of you, the joy you each take in the other, the harmony (or chaos) this will bring to our family. I love the idea of complements, both across-- between you and your sister, me and your father; and down- between Dad and Clio, you and me.

Yin and Yang. Sisters.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On Not Sitting Down at the Table (a belated Mother's Day Tribute)

My mom is always the last one to the table. She is grabbing the last batch of toast at breakfast or tossing the salad at dinner or grabbing the salt and pepper, while my dad says "Terry, sit down". Barb sometimes eats standing up at the counter. I think I finally understand that this is because moms routinely get up from the table some dozens of times during any meal, and perhaps it's easier to just stay up. I am happy to get Clio water with ice and a straw and serve seconds and replace a fallen spoon, but I also want to sit and enjoy my own dinner and take a load off for a few minutes. So I bargain with Clio when I could just get up and get it done already. I don't know if it's habit or love or the path of least resistance, but my mother and mother-in-law don't complain, they don't heave a sigh or say in a minute, and they certainly don't say get it yourself; instead, they have always provided just what you need before you knew you needed it. And because it is now my job to do this, I see how seamless they make it, and for this I say thank you.

And some day, if I learn to do it right, my girls will not notice all that I do for them. Until they are moms too, and appreciate everything that that means.

And now, sit down, Mom.

I love you.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's sunscreen season

Also known as "sun scream" and "summer cream" in the world according to Clio.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dining Alfresco

The season for outdoor dining always seems short in NYC: the spring is too wet and then, suddenly, it's too hot. Sometimes by the time I remember how nice it is to eat outside, the window has passed. Not so this year. We're getting started early. And maybe it will become a nice little habit, just in time to move somewhere where being outside is a regular part of your day- and not just on your commute.

So far: dinner last night on the patio, picnic lunch today in Prospect Park (above), and back to the patio tonight. The girls loved it. And it does make me aware--and very appreciative--of how much we have in a city where outdoor living usually means the fire escape. If you're lucky.

The experience was novel in many ways--for Eleri, having her high chair outside seemed to knock her for a loop, in a good way; and Clio is into the wildlife. After dinner last night, two squirrels came off of the carport roof and into the tree, and Dave gave Clio a big chestnut to hold out to them. I suggested that we put the nut in the tree and watch to see if they took it, but Dave and Clio were convinced that the squirrels would eat it out of Clio's hand. They didn't. And just as well: who needs a trip to the emergency room for a rabies shot on a holiday weekend? Not me, thank you very much.

The only drawback? Clio's million and one dinner requests (more milk, new fork after dropping one, etc. etc.) involve a farther trip to the kitchen. But when the temp dropped and Clio got chilly, I was the happy recipient of some quality snuggling. Sigh.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Very Particular

Often when we're reading books, Clio dictates to me where, exactly, I should touch, hold, or turn the page. She'll point to the top right corner, say, or reprimand me for flipping a page that she wanted turned. She also gets upset if I cover any of the page (even if nothing is on the spot) with an errant thumb.

Is there a gene for control freakishness? Because I have plenty to pass along.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Grandparents Galore

Last week, the girls had the pleasure of seeing both sets of grandparents. A grandparental double-header, if you will. First, Grandma and Grandpa came to stay with us in Chicago and watched the girls in the hotel while we went downstairs to the wedding. This was a great set up: we were able to pop in on them between events, and Barb and Pete even brought the girls down for the Procession of the Brahmin, where the groom arrived on a horse. Yes, a horse. At the Sheraton Downtown.

Clio and Eleri literally did not leave the hotel all weekend- but who needs to when there is a pool, a 34th floor "snack room" with killer views and a massage chair, and all the new books that Grandma's library was de-accessioning... straight into our own little library.

On Monday, my parents came to town for a charity gala where my great-grandfather's foundation was being honored for its committment to innovations in education (and a large gift to the organization to bring their program improving public schools to the under-privileged areas of Baton Rouge). They only had a few hours with the girls (and Eleri slept through most of it, natch), but Clio really kept Papa busy. On Wednesday, my mom was back ("not Papa?" asked Clio), and we all went to the aquarium, one of Clio's favorite places. Nonny got to make the acquaintance of Clio's favorite species, including the giant rays, sharks, and sandfish. Photos of that coming soon!


Eleri loves peekaboo. She thinks it's hilarious. Clio goes around saying "boo" to her to get a laugh, and it works pretty much every time. In fact, I've started telling her "no" and she laughs hilariously at that, too- guess it sounds too much like her favorite funny word. (This does not bode well for me). Mostly, though, Eleri likes to instigate the game, and when she's lying on her changing table she often pulls the top of her shirt up over her face, waits for you to say "where's Eleri," and then peeks out at you. We have yet to capture this on camera, but today I did catch her playing the game.... with a bowl full of food. On the third try I found a camera with both a working battery and disc space, and took quite a marathon.

By the end, Clio tired of watching the shots in the viewfinder, and decided she wanted in on the action. So she "hid" on the couch.

It's amazing how long it can take to "find" someone who is hiding in plain sight, when they're calling the shots.