Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Boulder Life

Boulder is crazy for bicycles. In fact, I think cyclists have more rights on the road than cars, and the path system is so comprehensive that you can get from any point in Boulder to any other point on a bike or multi-use path. So naturally, once of the first things we did when we got here was to buy a Burley (a double bike trailer) to pull the girls behind our bikes. Clio, especially, loves it. Whenever we head out of the house, she asks "can we go on the bikes?" She loves it so much, in fact, that this pohoto-phobic kid allowed an entire photo shoot inside the Burley yesterday afternoon, as we prepared to head off to meet my cousin Jesse and his wife Catherine's good friends for dinner (they also just relocated.) Throughout the shoot, Clio made the same exact face, except when she broke to say "Mom, I'm smiling!"


And, just for fun, a little flashback to Clio's first Burley run, with her cousin Lucia, not long after her first birthday.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I was feeling a little guilty about the wacky summer these girls had: back to full time in Day Care when I was on deadline for my books, squired away on sundays for hours at a time while we held Open Houses, not allowed to touch anything as we attempted to keep the house clean for showings, half their toys packed away, and then--BAM!--a life-changing cross-country move.

So it was great when my parents came to visit not long after we arrived in Boulder. (Don't you just love the hydrangeas outside our door?)

Not only is it fabulous anytime these kids get time with their grandparents, but in this case, those grandparents stayed in a hotel with a POOL, and the girls swam pretty much every day.

Plus, never have there been so many treats: cookies, ice cream, juice, extra snacks, balloon animals on Pearl Street,
new books from the independent bookstore, a toy here and there, etc. Not because my parents are a bad influence, mind you; somehow I used their visit as an excuse to lavish my girls with special treats and favors, to "make up for" "all they have been through." Oh, and I hear my Dad let Clio cheat at Candyland; he claims it's in the rules that small children can put back cards they don't like, in order to "encourage them." I haven't actually checked it out, but I have my suspicions about this one.

The final bonus? My mom and I did a little collaboration on the girls room, and while there are still some details to work out, the place is looking adorable. Both girls particularly love Clio's "Princess Bed, Just Like Elsie's."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

First Day of School- After

Well, we survived.
In fact, she's already on to day two.
Clio still loathes the camera, but Dave did manage to get these (slightly terrible) shots to capture the momentous occasion.

All the way to school yesterday, Clio had me repeat the story of MY first day- about 1,000 times. The way my mom was so worried; how I just walked away and said "bye mom." I thought she might be inspired by my 2 1/2 year old bravery, but no; she contradicted my story and told me that I gave my mom a kiss and stayed with her, and when it was time to get Clio out of the car, there were tears, there was wailing, there was reaching of the arms while calling "mommy, mommy, I want you!" The teacher's assistant just picked her up and carried her away.

And today might have been worse- same scene, just noisier, more impassioned.

I will admit, I don't love the drop-off procedure. Clio's classroom is in its own little building at the outer edge of the campus, and it has a circular drive. You pull in and wait in your car until the Teacher's Assitant, Debbie/ Mrs. Anderson, comes with a clipboard to have you sign your child in, and most parents I have observed just let her get their kid out of the car. It seems strange to me that the moment of transition would happen in the car, which I guess I think of as the child's and the family's personal space, instead of at the door of the classroom; Clio, too, thought it was a bad idea, and would not get out of the car for Debbie. In fact, she cowered in her car seat and her mouth turned down in that very sad pre-crying way. We had to make a deal: I would get her out of the car and give her a kiss, then she would go with Mrs. Anderson. Clio didn't really make good on her end of the deal, and once again was simply scooped up and carried off, with Mrs. Anderson asking, "where is that smile I saw all day yesterday?"

This is just one of those things about Clio: when she's in something, she is fully in it; it's just the transition that gets her. When the head teacher, Mrs. Walters, brought her back to the car at pick up yesterday, she told me that Clio did great, and I was not at all surprised. Maybe that morning transition will smooth out one of these days; maybe not.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Day of School- Before

I had so much to say earlier, as I dropped forms off at Clio's school and took her shopping for a back pack and lunch box. But then I got caught up in grocery shopping and dinner preparation; and I discovered a new job resource for Denver jobs, with a listing for a GREAT job with an application deadline of TOMORROW, so we've been tearing the house apart looking for my external hard drive, which has all of my resumes and pertinent career information on it so I don't have to recreate all my materials from older versions. And I made the mistake of drinking a beer before all of that.


Tomorrow is Clio's first day of school, and while she did go to school last year, it was just two half-days a week, and instead of a simple, straight-up first day of school there was an elaborate phasing-in period that was experienced by me in the blur of maternity leave and the sleep deprivation associated with having a 2-month old. So this feels like Clio's real first day of school, and I'm struck even more then when I first saw her in her new booster seat by how big and how little she is, all at the same time. A few things to note:

1. She tells me she doesn't want to go to school, that when we get there she will say, "No Mrs. Walters, I don't want you!" and that she will close the classroom door and run back to me and get in the car. I think this is just the anticipation talking- I can report back tomorrow.

2. I am suddenly aware, in planning for Clio's lunch and packing it in her carefully-chosen lunchbox, that this is the first time Clio will be declaring herself in a peer-situation. I find myself worrying that Boulder kids and Montessori kids do not carry such commercial items as a Disney Princess backpack (and lunch box, and thermos, and sneakers), and try to reassure myself that Clio's love of the Disney Princesses (despite having never seen most of the movies they star in) is reason enough to embrace her choices. I wonder what other moms pack in lunches, and if Clio will covet her neighbors juicebox, gummy fruit snacks, or cookies; does a 3-year-old understand the idea of individual meals? Mine has been eating the same chicken tenders and frozen vegetables as her peers at day care for a long while now. At the grocery store, I found myself buying things I normally don't - individual applesauce containers, deli meat- so Clio can "fit in."

3. I'm a little sad that Clio will be away from us all day, every day, starting tomorrow. It's been kind of fun to have her around, accompanying me on my various errands, entertaining me in the aisles of Target, causing strangers in my path to smile in my direction when they catch sight of her light summer dress and furry moon boots.

4. Tonight as we did "big day," I told her that when I started school, when I was 2 1/2, my mom was so worried that I would be sad and want to stay with her, but that, when we got to the school, I simply let go of her hand so I could wave to her, said "bye mom!" and walked cheerfully into the classroom. My mom was so distraught my this, she says she just stood there, sort of whimpering, "don't I get a kiss?" When I finished the story, Clio asked me to tell it again; I agreed that I would, tomorrow, on our way to school.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Eleri's First Word


"Uh-oh" (pronounced a bit more like uh-ah)

How appropriate.

I think Dave might argue this, as he is claiming that her dada babbling is, in fact, her way of naming him.

And even with just one (or two) words under her belt, she continues to be very expressive. To wit: every time my mom came near her over the past 5 days, Eleri would turn her shoulder and grunt in a way that made her intentions very clear: "stay away, person who is not my mom." When I was not around, this cold shoulder went to me Dad, as if to say, "stay away, person who is not my nonny."

She also has a new "feed me" face, where she tilts her head back, opens her mouth wide to expose her gap teeth, and crinkles her nose, and she does a very clear "gimme" sign by opening and closing her fist repeatedly.

On the other hand, the unfortunate shrieking trend has also continued, and much of the time, we don't really know what her problem is. The one clear shriek is the "take me outside, I have discovered that Boulder is a place for the outdoors" shriek, which is often accompanied by banging on the door to the outside.

I looked back to old blog posts and discovered that Clio wasn't really talking at this stage either, but by the October following her first birthday, she has a list of nearly a dozen words; it will be interesting to see if Eleri experiences a similar explosion.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

On Transition

Oh Blog, How I Have Missed You!

We're here, in Boulder, in one piece. We finally got internet yesterday. And for the record, I'd like to amend something I stated in an earlier post. I talked about moving being sudden, no matter how long the build up; in fact, I likened it to childbirth, where one day you are pregnant and the next you have a child (one day you live here, the next, there). But of course, both have a transition (in childbirth, part of it is literally called "transition"), and in the case of this move, everything has been very, very gradual. First of all, because we have yet to sell our house in Brooklyn, we actually have two homes right now, and both have some of our things. We have phone numbers--land lines, no less--in both places. We have plants to water here and there.

Uploading my pictures from the past week made me realize what a strange, complex thing this move has been. First off, I forgot that Clio had pneumonia our last week in Brooklyn until I saw this picture of her nebulizing herself

(welcome back--again--Mr. Nebulizer.) I forgot--already--what an intense, busy time those last few days were. We had a buyer we were waiting to hear from on the house, and we finally got word that they were not ready to buy in the middle of Monday night. Dave's uncle Ray was already in town to help with the packing and, ultimately, the driving. They were planning to leave Wednesday, though Ray thought we were cutting it too close (the truck had to be here, ideally, by Friday afternoon so the girls and I had a place to sleep upon arrival by air.) So we moved up the truck pick up and tried to move up the movers, leaving me one day to figure out what furniture stayed to stage the house and what came with us. When they didn't hear from the movers, Dave and Ray started packing the truck Tuesday, and we continued packing boxes until 3 in the morning; they went ahead and finished loading the truck BY THEMSELVES, and got on the road at 9 (just after the movers called to find out what time we needed them); my aunt Missy arrived around noon to head to Ikea for the home-staging lightning round. By Wednesday night we had the house mostly put together.

But in the in-between, I had to figure out how to feed a 3- and 1- year old with no furniture. It looks something like this:

Thursday I borrowed my friend Emily's car and returned library books, took 5 huge bags and random furniture to Salvation Army, returned a few odds and ends to Ikea, went to Target for the bedskirt that matched the bedding in the master bedroom, went BACK to the same complex for a standing lamp I saw at Marshall's, etc. Thank goodness for our wonderful neighbors, who picked up Clio from day care and fed the lot of us, thereby minimizing the time allotment for the girls to break all things Ikea.

Friday I returned the car, walked home a dozen blocks, installed a decal mural in Clio's room,

got a call from a realtor wanting to show the house THAT AFTERNOON (it happened, by the way, while I was on the plane and Elsie's mom Agnes let them in), which meant everything had to be "showroom perfect," packed our bags, cleaned up the garden, watered the plants, took out the garbage (7 contractor bags), picked up the girls from day care for the VERY LAST TIME, squeezed in a tearful good-bye (although, Dave would later ask "who else was tearful" and truth be told, just me.)

got the girls home, kept them from breaking all things ikea, called a car service, and got off to the airport.

Things look similar on this side of our landing: sleeping on the floor Friday night for lack of mattresses (they stayed in Brooklyn), hitting iHop at 6am when we realized we did not even have milk for the baby, realizing after waiting for an hour on Saturday that the movers were coming SUNDAY, locking our keys in the car at Target and having to get a cab to take us home to get keys and back to get the car, and so on and so forth.

But you know what? Clio and Eleri like the new house.

Clio talks about liking Boulder (although she would like to go to Elsie's house, even though she know understands that this would involve a plane and planes are expensive. Here's their last, Thursday night playdate:

And my parents arrived today to help watch the kids while we continue the slow process of unpacking and learning new patterns for living in our new house. And we'll buy a second-hand burley to hitch to the bikes so we can all ride together. And we'll go to the farmer's market and Boulder festival and hike in Chautauqua and be tourists while we have visitors.

I always get a little flummoxed when I've been away from blogging for a while, because there tends to be so much to catch up on, and sometimes I don't know how to parse it all out, and this has never been more true than now. When will I write about the strange lack of ethnicities here (and my surprise that the movers were not Russian, the cab driver was not Middle Eastern, and the Starbucks Barristas were not African American)? About Clio's school picnic and the fact that I chose this moment to stand firm on discipline, meaning she didn't get to have ice cream at the ice cream social? About the fact that Eleri is walking?

None of this is sudden; it is all a continuum.

More to come.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

American Museum of Natural History

Yesterday we all had one last adventure in New York. Because everyone is sick, we nixed the original plan for the Bronx Zoo and headed up to the Natural History Museum instead. Dave had never been, and for me it had been years; Clio has been talking about dinosaurs lately; and Thursday night we had dinner at a restaurant just down the street, so it ended up seeing like the obvious choice.

Both girls got some hands on action: Clio turned a penny into a souvenir penny, complete with engraving of a wooly mammoth skeleton

and in the Frogs exhibit, Eleri was all about pushing the buttons of every machine that made noise or pictures.

Clio contemplated the scale of the dinosaurs (or maybe she's counting her fingers- the dinosaur hand only had three)

But ultimately she was not impressed. After seeing this huge skeleton, she asked "when do we see the really, really big dinosaurs?"

Maybe this kid belongs in New York after all.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, MaMa

Today is Dave's grandmother's 93 birthday. That's right, 93. Clio made her a card (okay, I had to write "Happy Birthday," but Clio managed the "MaMa" and her own signature)

and we decided to take a picture to make a little e-card. Or, since it's on the blog, maybe its a b-card. Anyway, getting a 3 year old and a one year old to sit still and hold up some paper is an interesting challenge. Here are some of our best (and worst) efforts.

I guess, if you can't bring the mountain to Mohammed, you can always bring Mohammed to the mountain.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

On Being Thoughtful

I always considered myself to be a thoughtful person. I send thank you notes promptly and write them beautifully- so the giver know how much I appreciate who they are to me as much as what they have given me. Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I also write wonderful cards and toasts that make people laugh, cry, and feel good about themselves. But the truth is, it kind of ends there. I am rarely on time with those cards, especially if the recipient is out of state, and I am ridiculously inconsistent. I mean well, but it has recently dawned on me that well-meaners are the reason for such expressions as "it's the thought that counts." It always seemed to me that the thought was the easy part, the execution- the finding, the buying, the wrapping, the sending on time- that was so hard. But I have been blessed with an actually thoughtful husband, one who thinks very sensitively about gifts (even if he, too, is inconsistent at best and rarely on time), and I believe that he has, in a way, given me the greatest gift: understanding what it means to be thoughtful.

Where is this coming from? you might be thinking. Well, there are two men in my life who are, on the surface, impossible to gift. Both of them have birthdays coming up (Dave's is tomorrow and my Dad's is the 18th), and both of them got shafted for father's day, the guilt over which has been hanging around my subconscious for the past six weeks. They are impossible to shop for for different reasons: my Dad because he claims he doesn't need anything and, in truth, is awfully content and seems to feel genuinely fortunate in his life; and Dave because the things he does want are so specific, so thoroughly researched, and, often, so expensive, that they are all way out of my league. For Dave, I would give the gift of taking something he really was interested in and doing the research for him, only he would never trust my research and would spend so much time verifying it, that he might as well have done the work his own way from the start.

Perhaps in some part due to all that research, Dave tends to have a "better way" to do just about anything, and he believes that the rest of us should think his way is better, too. (Similarly, my Dad is always coming out with these bits of information that sound so random that everyone puts it down to the Irish Gift for Gab- meaning, we assume he's making it up. Our family's favorite example of this dates to a drive through North Carolina, circa 1993, when my Dad announced that the town we were approaching was home of the world's hottest pepper. Annoyingly, it turned out that my dad was correct about that pepper, and Dave's "better"methods tend to actually be, well, better.) A while back, Dave and I joked about an experiment whereby, rather than arguing every time he told me the better way, I would just go ahead and take his advice and see what I learned. So, for his birthday, I decided to think about how he would go about buying a gift, and even from this hypothetical exercise, I learned a few things.

Before I got down to business, though, I wasted a lot of time trying to remember the brilliant idea I had had for a gift for him a while back; the one genius idea that was going to be the gift to end all gifts. (I have always been both a procrastinator and an exaggerator). Then, giving up on the genius but forgotten idea--and here comes tip number one--I went to his favorite store: Paul Smith. (To be honest, this was a stroke of luck- on my way from one errand to another, I happened to walk within a block of the place and remembered that it was right there and that Dave loved it.) I suppose this should be obvious, but I think too often we end up getting our loved ones gifts that we want them to love, rather than gifts that they will love--gifts that reflect who we think they should be, rather than who they are.

Once inside, I realized that half the work had been done for me; this store is Dave's favorite for very good reason: as I walked around, picking up one thing after another, I felt that Dave would very much like every single thing here; my job, then, was to choose which things. Part of the problem with this particular store is that it is very expensive. I looked at a price tag here and there and new there was no way I was spending $300 on a shirt, especially while Dave and I are sharing one bank account, with dwindling funds. And I remembered another lesson of thoughtfulness. A few years back, my parents went to Italy. For Christmas that year, I was thrilled to receive a Missoni scarf--as a lover of texture, pattern, and color (and, okay, knits in general), I have always been a huge fan of the brand. I remember, when I opened it, that my mom apologized that it was "only a scarf," but that it was all they could really justify purchasing in the expensive store. But to me, owning a genuine, beautiful anything from Missoni was a big, wonderful deal; I wore that scarf religiously for the next two years, particularly with the perfect little Calvin Klein jean jacket, and the feeling of absolute chic that I got from owning and wearing that little piece of Missoni made that scarf one of the best gifts I have ever received. So I bought Dave some socks. Fabulous, striped, Paul Smith socks. I hope he will get that same feeling every time he wears them.

I think thoughtful gift-giving is also about sending a particular message. At this moment in our lives, where we have been through so much change on a yearly basis but have found ourselves voluntarily signing up for so much more, I wanted Dave to know how I feel about him as a person; what I promise to him in all the changes ahead; and that I believe we will get through it all if we can both remember to have an open mind and sense of humor. Because Dave is more private than me, I won't share the details of what gifts accomplished each of those things, but I will say that he gave me a great compliment upon opening it all: that it was, indeed, very thoughtful.

Next up, dad. I better get thinking.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Outfit of the week

Another gem from the Morgan and Greta repertoire.
To quote Cat Deeley, "I mean, have you ever....?"

With those little criss-cross back straps, front and back views were totally necessary. I have no excuse for adding the side view as well. Except, well, have you ever...?

Sunday, August 2, 2009


Last year, when she turned two, we got Clio a scooter for her birthday. She took on step onto it, promptly fell off and cried and insisted it go back.

This year, we tried again. When I took Clio to Little Things, a toy store in Park Slope, to make a birthday list, she rode the display scooter around the store the whole time, gleefully sailing from the dolls to the arts and crafts and back again. Upon hearing this, Nonny and Papa offered to get her the scooter for this birthday, so I went back and bought it in orange. Clio loved it upon opening and then refused to ride it. Wouldn't even set a foot on the thing.

My first mistake? Orange. Turns out, Clio wanted a pink scooter. Not knowing this was truly foolish of me- everything these days comes down to pink or red. So much so that I had to take all the pink toys away from Clio and Elsie the other day unless there were two identical things so they could each have one. When I realized that I only had two clean kid cups left at lunchtime, and that one of them was pink (but the other one was not), I had to do some quick thinking to avoid a disaster, and gave one girl a pink cup with a green straw, one a green cup with a pink straw. In a world where everything must match and pink rules, this was, apparently, just enough. I also need to realize that pink may not be just the age, and that it's time to stop forcing my preferences on my daughter as if I know better: when I was about her age and my parents re-painted by bedroom, I chose orange. Guess what color my bedroom is now? Not pink.

My second mistake? None of Clio's friends have scooters, and right now she has little interest in doing anything that someone else isn't already doing. I suppose peer pressure can be a useful thing: to get Clio riding, we simply brought her scooter to Lydia's block party and suggested Lydia take it for a spin.

Tricky. Maybe even devious. But effective: Eventually, Clio decided she wanted to have a turn, too.
I think it's also helpful to have a destination, and the conga band was a pretty intruiging one at the party.

Let's hope there are regular bands of scooter-riders in our neighborhood in Boulder- I think Clio shows real potential; she just needs "encouragement" of the non-parental variety.

And yes, she has a helmet; but that has been a complete deal breaker, so while she's in the barely-standing-and-barely-moving-while-being-supervised-phase, I think we'll let it go.

Eleri Ruth, Daredevil

As if it weren't bad enough that when you turn your back for two second, Eleri is at the top of the stairs or even all the way into the bathroom contemplating the toilet bowl cleaner (or just the toilet bowl), she has a new trick, which is yet to be captured on camera: she climbs right on up on the coffee table, crawl to one end, and sits down with her bottom hanging right over the edge. So now you need to hover in the living room to block against two major falls that always seem imminent. And when she's not climbing, she's busy unplugging sockets from outlets (and trying to plug them back in), or trying to get in to the kitchen cabinets to sort out the cuisinart blades.

One good thing about a fresh start in a new house: we can plan around this adventuressness from day one.

Status Update

We move in less than two weeks.

We have yet to sell the house, and, largely because of this, we haven't packed a box. If you came over, you would never suspect that such a big change was afoot. But I've always said that that's the way it is with moving (or having a baby): after a stretch of anticipation, the tangible change itself is quite sudden. One day you live here, the next day you live there. One day you're pregnant, the next, you have a child.

It's been very hard to know how much to let Clio in on what's going on. When I was pregnant with Eleri, we didn't really start talking about the baby all that much until I was about 8 months pregnant- to Clio, my belly grew so gradually that the change was imperceptible; time to a two year old is so big and stretched out relative to an adult that we figured starting the conversation too soon would only lead to impatience and, possibly, anxiety. Ever since Clio turned three, she's been talking about turning four, and I have tried to convey how much time lies between two events: I describe all the seasonal changes and major holiday milestones that need to occur before she has another birthday; I stretch out my description itself to make her feel the distance still to be traveled. But here we are, less than two weeks out from a different kind of milestone, and I found myself a little surprised when Clio's friend Elsie showed her Colorado on a map in her coat closet yesterday. There was something so tangible about it, and I feared, in that moment, that I haven't sone enough to get Clio prepared. I had pointed the state of our future residence out in an atlas recently, and showed Clio the route from here to there (it was a road atlas, and, yes, sometimes I forget that Clio is just three) but somehow Elsie's map, with it's brightly colored states and clip-art rendering of mountains in Colorado, was, ironically, so much more real.

We have talked about moving to the mountains. When I talk about our new house, Clio remembers one of the rentals we looked at together, one where the owner lived downstairs and had a dog, and she asks me if our yard will have a stuffed animal in it. I tell her yes and hope I will remember to arrange this when we arrive. We talk about her new school as a place where kids catch butterflies in nets, because when we visited, some children were outside doing just that. We went to Ikea today to pick up additional sheets for Clio's bed (and to clear out of the house for a couple of showings), and as we pulled into the parking lot Clio announced that she would like a Cinderella bed. I asked her what a Cinderella bed looks like, and she said, "Just like Elsie's" - Elsie just got a cascade of white netting over her toddler bed, an attempt of her mom's to help the transition to a bedroom shared with a baby sister. We got our own netting and ceiling-mount ring, and I told Clio she would have to wait for this special princess bed until we got to Boulder, to make sure there is something tangible to look forward to.

But we haven't really talked about the leaving part. We didn't tell Clio yesterday that this was her last playdate with Elsie (though Elsie made a wonderful picture book for Clio that tells the story of their play time together, and she said to "have fun in Colorado"). And I can't quite bring myself to explain that she's almost done going to Titi's house. It seems easier to avoid that anxiety, and to let it happens as it happens. But then I wonder if I am forcing my own preferences on to her.

We have reached the stage of the "lasts" - last mom's night out, last dinner with Elsie's parents- and I find this difficult. My friend Lila had offered to organize going-away drinks for Dave and I, and said something in offering that really resonated with me: she said, "I understand if you don't want to do an event at all; you might not want that moment of rupture." This was a few weeks ago, and as the moment approaches, I realize she is exactly right: I don't want the tear, the abrupt moment of good bye. I would rather slip away, glide into my "new life." But I worry that by not giving Clio more warning, we are creating, rather than avoiding, a moment of rupture.

At the same time, I am aware that kids live in the moment, and that Clio will make new friends and will quickly adjust. Kids trust their parents, and take their cues from us in any given situation. A friend who is going through some major changes of her own said a therapist reassured her that whatever you tell the kids is "normal", they will just take to be normal. So I'm trying to learn from Clio and just live in the present. Tonight, after Dave went off to the office to finish up one last proposal and after Eleri went to bed, Clio and I went outside and sat on the front stoop and blew bubbles. She chased after them and reached up into the sky, pointing out airplanes as the sunlight faded. She allowed me to take her picture, directing me to photograph her shoes, and made very silly faces. I squeezed her tight and told her I loved her, and I'm not sure I've heard anything sweeter than the exact quality of her voice when she said "I love you too."