Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Hallow's Eve

I love Halloween. I always have: mostly, it's the costumes. I love dress up, I love the game of being someone else, so I love the day that we all do these things, natch. But I have to admit, Halloween has been something of a bummer the last few years. 2 out of the past 4, I was just barely pregnant, and sooooooo sick. When I was pregnant with Clio, I was so wiped out, I couldn't even think about a costume until the say of, then, I ran madly from one idea to the next, trying to find the right balance of "fabulous" and "I can put it together from my closet." After coming very close to a good Mary Poppins, I ultimately threw in the towel and stayed home, tearfully. When pregnant with Eleri, I had a similar run-down, only that time there was a kid to think about. We dressed Clio as a not-convincing Chucky (we couldn't find red hair spray at the last minute, and tried to color her hair with markers- with mixed results) and sent her off to a babies party with her Easter Bunny dad (and Tooth Fairy mom stayed home.)

This year was good. It was very good. Which is funny, because it was fairly unplanned and ultimately low-key. (This is like a completely new things for me: the fact that "good" "unplanned" and "low key" can all be used to describe the same day.) First: the costumes. Because that's what it's really all about. I found this adorable ladybug for Eleri at Marshalls several months ago, hung it in the back of the closet, and was pleased to discover today that it fit.

Clio insisted on being Ariel. There was a while there that she talked about going as the Rose Fairy: Granddad and Bonnie had a special Fairy Tale book made for Clio's first birthday, where the fairies, searching for a child to crown as princess, spell out the name Clio Grace Peterson, with each letter standing both for the fairy (R for Rose) and for a quality (Resourceful.) Clio is particularly enamored of the Rose gown, and I had elaborate plans for recreating it. I must admit, I was little disappointed when she changed her mind, and gave some serious thought to making an Ariel costume, but you know what? She LOVED the one we found at Target, and Dave convinced me to let go and do it the easy way. (Is this where I recount my junior year at Vassar, where I labored over a Falcor costume- the Luck dragon from the Neverending Story- dissembling a feather boa and hand-gluing feathers to cardboard for wings, creating the wing's ribs by sewing and stuffing narrow tubes of blue velvet, transforming the sleeves of a vintage wedding dress into the "inner" wings, and so forth? Guess what? The costume was fabulous, but no one had a clue what I was supposed to be; meanwhile, my friend Sarah bought a second hand dress and did her hair just right, and everyone knew she was the Empress from the same movie. Lesson learned.)

To up the Ariel authenticity, we did get a bright red hair extension and sprayed Clio's actual hair to match; this, together with some "mermaid makeup" was plenty to make a convincing Disney Princess.

But better than the get ups was the day we had. I checked online this morning and discovered the Day of the Dead festival at the Longmont museum; off we went to make paper flowers, decorate sugar skulls, take a gander at the amazing costumes of Native American dancers, and eat delicious beans, rice, tortillas, and Mexican hot chocolate.

Back at home, we designed and carved pumpkins. Clio and I had the chance to make one at Dakota's house last weekend, but Dave and Eleri stayed home sick; in fact, today felt like the first just-us family time in a while, after our trip to NY, a visit from Grandma and Grandpa, and last weekend's work events for me. It was great to hang out and do a project. Clio designed the little guy with the big mouth, Dave made the one that looks like he was beat up, the traditional one was form Dakota's house, and we all collaborated on that big sinister guy.

Clio and Eleri went trick-or treating with Dakota and the dads (and then I took a last lap with the big kids when Eleri went to bed); they sprinted from house to house, belted out "Trick or Treat" and helped themselves to more than one piece of candy per house. In fact, at one house when I suggested Clio take one, she thought that was fine- she was going for one on each kind.

Afterwards, Clio was allowed to sample a few pieces of candy, and we watched It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown on the computer. (Dave is a genius with bitstreams or flobots or whatever it is you have to do to download video that isn't readily available online). I haven't seen it since I was a kid, and I was amazed by the sophistication of the humor and the vocabulary, the long interludes (Snoopy hunting the Red Baron), and the fact that it ultimately ended in disappointment. They just don't make cartoons like that anymore. (I also loved the amazing 60s furnishings in the background!)

I thought Clio wouldn't want to take off her costume or wash out her hair, but she didn't mind. She thought it was pretty awesome that her hairspray turned the water pink, and she went to bed without a fuss. I suggested that we read the library Halloween books one last time, but she chose that fairy story instead. On to the next, I guess.

And one more thing. When I was out going door to door for candy, Justin and I were talking about past halloweens, and I remembered that Clio kept saying something really funny last year--but I couldn't remember what it was. I knew I would come home and look it up on the blog, and I remembered the original purpose of this thing, and came face to face with it's value.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snow Day(s)!

We got about 20" of snow over the past two days. To think that Dave didn't want to move to Minnesota because of the wintery climate! Everyone claims that snow melts immediately in Boulder; we'll see if this turns out to be the case. Everyone also says that it's generally 75 degrees on October 30, then snows on Halloween. It may not have followed that order this year, but I can't imagine that we will be trick or treating without at least a little snow on the ground.

The following picture is at about 14", so you can just imagine....

Eleri was a bit like the boy from A Christmas Story in her hand-me-down snow gear. Dave said he took her outside today and she just stood in one spot (until Clio knocked her down.)

Let me also mention, though many of you will have noticed this, that these photos were already posted on facebook. As part of my blog-dentity crisis, I find myself confused about what to post where. More and more of our pictures tell their own story (I feel like I used to rely on photos to make a point within a written narrative, but many of the recent albums can stand on their own.) Maybe I'll figure it out. Maybe not. Maybe no one cares but me.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Missing Elsie

Sometimes I'm aware of how much we underestimate kids as people, just because they're small.

In the lead up to our move west, I was so concerned about Clio and how she would handle the change; with Eleri, I remember specifically thinking that she was so little, she wouldn't remember, so it didn't matter. Which says something about me, I suppose: worrying more about the future reaction to the moment than the moment itself. As it turns out, Clio has (mostly) adjusted quite well, while Eleri has taken it pretty hard. My aunt Molly, who is heavily involved in the Montessori movement and has a tremendous knowledge of children's development, told me that in fact, it is much harder for kids Eleri's age to manage change, because they have a very developed sense of order and having that disrupted is a huge challenge. In living through this change with her, I have felt somewhat chagrined that somehow, because she doesn't have the language to express her feelings or the capacity to understand those feelings, I have allowed myself to think the feelings themselves were invalid.

Since our trip to New York and our last-minute decision to go see our friends Agnes and Martin, thereby reuniting Clio with their daughter Elsie, I have been confronted with the fact that Clio, at 3, is in possession of complex feelings herself, and that she is actually just beginning to have the capacity to express them.

Seeing Elsie (and the rest of the Lairds) was wonderful. It was absolutely the right thing to do. But it also threw into sharp relief for us--and, it seems for Clio--this feeling of looking back, of missing pieces of our past life. I was surprised by this; walking into their house was like walking into a wall, and I found myself in tears. The word verklempt came to mind. The other night, after a great dinner out with Dave, his parents, and the girls, Clio and I were driving home alone, and she asked me, "are we still in Brooklyn?" When I told her that we weren't, that we're in Boulder now, she said, "I want to stay in Brooklyn." It was the first time that she had expressed this so clearly, and taking my recent lesson to heart, I decided not to be dismissive of her feelings, but to examine them instead. So I asked her how she felt about leaving Brooklyn; and when she said she felt sad, I asked her what she missed. She let out something of a wail: "El-sssiiiieee!" When I told Agnes this by email, she reported that Elsie, too, was feeling the effects of their all-to-brief visit: when asked if she'd like another friend to come over, Elsie said, "no, I want Clio."

So they will talk by webcam. Maybe they will get to visit once or twice more. But then?

I still remember when my best friend from first grade moved away to Virginia. I remember feeling that loss; it stays with me still. I have vivid memories of making gingerbread houses in her messy kitchen, of her year-round Christmas tree (at valentines day, hearts went on the branches; at easter, eggs), and the strip tease she performed for the entire family with layers upon layers of dress-up clothes.

I am still friends with my own neighborhood friends from childhood, though we see each other infrequently I hold them impossibly dear. I have many vivid memories of many years with them, and while I often assumed that these memories were limited to the later years (dance class with Carrie, high school with Lizzie), when I visited Carrie's house years later, I saw the little door to the playroom under the stairs where we spent many hours; the door is so tiny, seeing it made me realize that I must also be remembering activities from when I was just about Clio's age, and now I wonder: even if there are only a handful of visits left to come, will Clio remember Elsie?

Of course, whether or not she does (and I think she will), what she is feeling right now is hard. While new friends can help, it is not the same: they simply don't have the same history. It may seem ridiculous to talk about "history" with 3-year olds, but in fact, Clio and Elsie have been friends for two thirds of their lives: that's some history.

For now, I'll share a few pictures from that night. Surreally, Agnes and Martin had recently invested in a bouncy castle for Elsie's third birthday party (cheaper to buy a small one than rent a big one for a couple of hours), so the girls all engaged in some jumping; just a week or two before, Clio has wanted to, but ultimately refused to jump in a bouncy castle at the Lakewood Cider Days because, I suppose, she had no companion (Eleri was deemed too small to go in with the bigger kids, and there were always bigger kids.) At the Lairds, Clio, Elsie, and even Eleri got their fill.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where Did My Baby Go?

She has been replaced by this little girl.

This little girl is an acrobat. The other day, we heard her squawking from down the hall. When we went to get her, we discovered her sitting in the middle of the dining room table. This evening, I was sitting on the floor with Clio in front of an armchair, when I saw a blur of motion. I turned just in time to catch Eleri as she leaped--yes, leaped--from the seat of the chair. We think she may have been inspired by some leaf-jumping action from the weekend:

Here she is climbing into an "experimental" chicken coop at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.

And here she is, riding a sled through the leaves, though really she prefers to ride her sister's scooter or tricycle. I'll have to get pictures of that.

Moe than her baby evil kenevil daredevilry, I think it's the onslaught of language that really makes her seem like she's leaving the baby days behind. She has been talking for a while now, but we're finally starting to understand what she is saying: mostly "this," "that," "what's this," and, a favorite, pointing and saying "ah ah ah ah" which roughly translates to "oh my gosh, look, look what I see! I can barely control my excitement." This is usually used in reference to squirrels, dogs, and Clio. In fact, it is the sound that Clio often wakes to in the morning.

Additionally, we got a fully enunciated "mommy" and "daddy" recently, as well as "in," "down," and "out." Even her vocab is made up primarily of action words.

Like her language, her walk is not all that well enunciated, and while she can walk from one end of the house to the other, she prefers the speed that comes with the hand of an adult, and I wonder if she will ever decide that it is just as fun, if not as efficient, to get around on her own. The kid grasps your finger so tightly when walking that the tip turns purple. Have I ever mentioned that this girl is strong?

It's funny how much more you notice when you're away all day. Each day contains leaps and bounds that are nearly imperceptible if you stand too close. (Although, those flying leaps onto or off of furniture are pretty unmistakable no matter your working status.)

I'm not sure how to end this post except to say: I guess here I am posting a normal post after all that sturm und drang. We have all these great new pictures from the past week or so, and it seems a shame to let them stand on their own when I can tell you all about them. Have I ever mentioned that I'm a control freak? No? Hmmmm.... perhaps I should add a "control freak" tag and see whether I mention the phrase more or less than the word "Target."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What I Did On My First Day Back to Work

1. Made arrangements to work a shorter day because- oops!- we only have one car until tomorrow.

2. Emailed that in fact I would also be late because my daughter had to go to Urgent Care.

3. Took poor, feverish Clio to Urgent Care; discovered she has a double ear infection and the flu. (The Dr. insists that the rapid flu test was a "false negative" and explained that the test is only 10-70% effective. !!!!)

4. Left sick baby at home with Dave who, as a new and short-term stay-at-home-dad, was also having a rough first day on the job.

5. Commuted to Denver in silence. (Antenna was stolen in our last week in Brooklyn- a parting gift.)

6. Upon 11:30 arrival at the office, was confronted by very large dog which, I swear, could play that evil wolf-dog character in the Neverending Story. Loud barking ensued. Backed down the stairs, shaking. Began to cry.

7. Tried to pull it together so no one would witness the tears. Failed.

8. Said to my new employers, "well, now you know I'm a crier. Might as well get that out of the way." (Very kind new employers generous response: "We're all criers here: we're writers!")(The dog is named Luka, by the way, and turns out her bark is much louder than her bite, as the saying goes.)

9. Ordered office furniture.

10. Got a parking ticket. Because of course street cleaning happens on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, which, of course, is the day on which I returned to work.

11. Did some work.

12. Left early. (Sick baby and all.)

Tomorrow, though...tomorrow I will get up on the other side of my bed!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Something funny has happened.

Over the past two weeks, I have occasionally thought about posting to this blog, but no so much because I had something I wanted to share as because I felt there was the expectation that I SHOULD share, because x number of days had passed. And for the first time, I understood the reasoning of the several bloggers I have encountered who chose to sign off, or at least give it a little rest: that they wanted to live their lives, rather than blog about them.

Over the past two weeks, I have been living my life: being offered (accepting, and tomorrow, starting) a new job; spending as much time as possible with my kids before their is less time to spend; reading books! traveling back to New York for my cousin Patrick's wedding and discovering, in doing so, the paradox of yearning for something at the heart of a place I do not miss. In 24 hours in the city before heading upstate, we managed to see both my best friend and Clio's, and it was like coming home. Just enough time has passed that it was almost possible that we had just been visiting Boulder, that we would slip back into life in Brooklyn. At the same time, enough time has passed that I think that would be impossible. In our habits, we have already moved on, begun to settle in to the shape of a different lifestyle.

I have begun several posts that felt false today- including, in all honesty, this one (I just deleted a paragraph or two about a run-in I had in traffic today.) I'm not sure if this is the culmination of the blog-dentity crisis I have been feeling since I got here (a blog is a product of your experiences; yet this blog seems awfully rooted in the angst of my years as a parent in NYC and our decision to leave) or just a dalliance with the freedom of not reporting on my life, or something mysterious behind door number three. I have been giving quite a bit of thought to what this blog needs to be for me, but I haven't found the answer.

For those of you who check back frequently, well, there may (or may not) me an ongoing lull. When I have had these moments before, they have been enough to get me unstuck, and a flood of posts has followed. We'll see. Work begins tomorrow and it will be the first time I start a new job as a parent. I will be creating a position and building a financial/fundraising plan, in a state I'm unfamiliar with and a sector not quite my own (but then again more personally my own: Writers instead of Artists), from the ground up, and re-learning how to balance work life and home life. How to be full-time everythings all at once. Oh, and I started a book club.

Just over a year ago, I wrote a post On Going Back to Work. I haven't re-read it, I just know it is there. That moment was the beginning of the end of my life in New York. I hope, in a way, that this is the beginning of a life in Colorado.

Okay, something else funny just happened. I kind of got grossed out by writing that last line, whether or not it is true. I think I might be better off if I stopped dividing time into these little parcels, and began to accept the way that it all overlaps. I have been reminded of this several times over the past few days: I have this fear that by taking a full time job, I will be short-circuiting any other plans for the future by limiting my time to lay the ground work now. I went through the same thing when I wrestled with the decision to go back to school for a Master's Degree: that somehow, I was putting off love and marriage by becoming a student again. But guess what? Dave and I met, became friends, started dating, became boyfriend-girlfriend, and fell in love while I was in grad school.

We have been talking a lot lately about the Lessons I Refuse to Learn (that given the chance, Eleri WILL break my sunglasses, for example.) I guess there are some big ones out there, too.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The L Word

I consider ours an affectionate household. We hug, we squeeze, we smooch, we pat each other on the butt. I feel proud that Dave and I show these displays of affection publicly, in front of our kids, much the way my parents did (and still do.)

But that's all physical. When it comes to the L word, we're a bit more reticent.

I remember when Clio was about 18 months old, a friend posted a video on her blog of her similar-aged toddler saying "I love you" to all the people in her family. It was adorable. It was a revelation: I wasn't quite sure I had actually said those words directly to my daughter. If I had, it was not often enough that Clio herself might pick up the phrase. And it seemed odd to me that I would be so shy about expressing my profound love in words, when language is where I have always excelled. I did start saying it, though haltingly. We're just not I Love You-ers; we know plenty of couples who say it every time they call one another, and definitely when signing off. This is lovely; it's just not our way. We don't need to say it before we go to bed each night, or sending each other off into the world each morning; I'm fairly certain we have even gone off on solo trips to other parts of the world without uttering those words in parting. If I stop to think about it, I guess it would be nice if we said it more, not from rote, but to verbalize that thing that is between us all, to pin down the ether.

Well, Clio to the rescue. Out of nowhere, Clio has become an I Love You-er. She says it all the time, sometimes out of nowhere and for seemingly no reason, but much more often she gets it exactly right: in acknowledgment of a moment of particular emotion; when someone has been particularly generous or helpful; and, my favorite, in the stillness between one activity and another, when it can just grab you around the heart and squeeze. She also likes to keep it going for a while. "I love you, Mommy," she'll say, and when I say "I love you too, baby," she says it back to me: "I love you too, baby."

It is often said that you learn from your children; I love that it starts so soon, and that Clio has started right in with such a big--and simple--thing.

Clio, I love you too, baby.