Sunday, February 28, 2010

Not With a Bang But a Whimper

This is the busiest week we've had in ages, with events five nights in a row: Wednesday night dinner at Dakota's, Thursday night parent-visiting night at Clio's school, Friday night party Chez Peterson, Saturday night work event for me followed by a night on the town for Dave, tonight dinner back at Dakota's. While this has produced plenty of material, it has not left time to process it, and meanwhile my short timeframe for blogging each night has perversely produced very long posts; all of this has left this blogger plain old wiped out.

So, excuses aside, all I've got for this final night of the month-long blog a day challenge is this photo of the girls, taken this morning before watching Snow White snuggled in Clio's bed (actually, Clio watched and Eleri pushed the buttons on the portable DVD player and tried to close the screen repeatedly.)

Something about this reminds me of the creepy twins from the Shining. I think it might be the hair parts going in opposite directions.

It was this, or a photo of a watermelon with an interesting pattern in the flesh; Dave showed it to me Friday while preparing Watermelon punch for the party, and we decided to take a photo in case I got really desperate for my daily post. Let's be glad it did not--quite--come to that!

Unfinished post: Poetry Reading

I first wrote this post for the Lighthouse blog, back in November, but ultimately decided it was too personal to share on a more public site. I was reminded of it tonight for two reasons. First, a work event I attended included a the lovely poet Lynn Wagner reading from her work, No Blues This Raucous Song, and the post is about feeling affected by a poetry reading. Second, when my GPS system had "trouble acquiring satellites" on my home from Denver, and I wasn't sure how to find my way out of town, I was reminded, yet again, that we're new here, and I think this post is also about wishing for familiarity.

I honestly thought I had posted this before, but a search of the blog turns up nothing. This is a minor miracle tonight, when I am very tired and would be hard pressed to truly post anew. So, here it is (excuse the formatting, it's a result of the cut and paste):

>Listening to John Brehm read from his collections tonight, I was reminded what it was to be 13, copying poems from the pages of Sassy magazine into a notebook: finally, someone had gotten it just right, found the exact words to express things I had felt.

True, Brehm's work recalled some of my own experiences: like him, I lived in Brooklyn for twelve years before moving to Boulder; lived there happily for a decade, then not. Like him, spent the final years jangling from the noise and complexity and the just plain hardness of it all. I saw myself in his poems: I have been to that social security office, though my bad encounter had to do with throwing out my lunch because it was not allowed through security. I have stood on that corner of Park and 17th, looking up, only I was looking for The Avalon, the restaurant where my college roommate had cocktail waitressed. It was a pleasure to remember the way that poetry can transport you to another time and place.

But of course, the power of poetry is also its ability to cut you to the quick, and quickly.

While these New York scenes made me feel something familiar- nostalgia, maybe, something backwards-looking, it was the universal evoked in his work that offered a familiarity that somehow looks forward. Like this:

from Sea of Faith

(In this poem, a freshman student has asked whether the Sea of Faith in the poem Dover Beach is “a real sea”)

I tried to explain in such a way

as to protect her from humiliation,

tried to explain that poets

often speak of things that don't exist.

It was only much later that I wished

I could have answered differently,

only after I'd betrayed myself

and been betrayed that I wished

it was true, wished there really were a Sea of Faith

that you could wade out into,

dive under its blue and magic waters,

hold your breath, swim like a fish

down to the bottom, and then emerge again

able to believe in everything, faithful

and unafraid to ask even the simplest of questions,

happy to have them simply answered.

Yes, yes, I thought, and turned my face in the bright room where the reading was held, to conceal the fact that I was crying.

I felt the wave rising in me, the journey I was being taken on, and I thought, maybe if I try not to listen too hard, if I listen softly, like watching through my fingers, maybe I can quell the tears.

When I got home, I sat my husband down and read him this poem. But when I got to those last lines and felt the wave again, this time, in private, I rode it. My voice quavered as I finished the poem, and I didn’t bother to collect myself.

And Dave, my husband, smiled.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Easter Dresses

The other day I popped in to Home Good/ TJ Maxx on my home from work, to return a duvet cover that didn't work for Clio's bed. I wandered into the girls section to see if they had dance gear in Clio's size, and (cue that heavenly music, where the sun rises and birds chirp and bunnies hop by): the Easter Dresses are here.

Oh. My. God.

I wished I had my camera on me to capture the display (perhaps the whole post-a-day thing is getting to me). As any bargain-stor shopper knows, most of the racks at a TJ Maxx are close together and stuffed- they have great stuff, but they make you work for it. But right now, they have cleared a tremendous amount of square footage for a real display: little islands of clothing racks, each festooned with two or three styles of dress in sizes from baby to big girl. Because Clio mostly wears dresses anyway (and has a particular fondness for fancy dresses), I felt justified in making a selection,and found myself loaded down with frothy confections for her spring/summer wardrobe. But because Clio is also quite opinionated about her fashions, and because my mother does an excellent job of picking out special occasion dresses, I put all but two back, and these two are sundresses as much as they are party dresses.

I'll give you a minute to absorb the cuteness.

Go ahead, enjoy it.....

Okay, moving on. While shopping, I noticed another trend in little-girls clothing: the big-girls clothes in little girl sizes. Embellished denim minis, funky hoodies, sassy slogans, lace-edged leggings. At first glance, there is something adorable about trendy teen clothing in toddler sizes, but upon second thought, I found myself drawn back to the high waists, the full skirts, the puff sleeves, the sashes. My little girls will only be little once; there is plenty of time to dress like teenagers- hopefully, just when they are teenagers. So I will indulge Clio's princess fantasy with a little one of my own.

I haven't revealed the dresses to Clio yet- I need to wait long enough that I might actually let her wear one of them once she sees them, but not so long that I can't return them if, inexplicably, she hates them.

For now, it is giving me great pleasure just to look at them.

And take their picture.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

On Montessori

Tonight we attended Parent Visiting night at Clio's school for the second time, an event where the children choose work to demonstrate for their parents. Clio's list, written on a clover cutout that she had colored green, included:

1. Metal Cutouts
2. Spindle Box
3. Color tablets
4. Plant polish

What she showed us was:

1. Watercolors
2. Trinomial Cube
3. Color Tablets
4. Metal cutouts
5. Plant polish

right there, you learn something about Montessori: we trust the child, and allow them choice within a prepared environment.

Earlier this week, a very tired Clio threw an absolute fit in the morning, refusing to go to school. There was nothing she liked to do there, she claimed. I asked her if she did painting at school, an activity that she never tires of at home, and she revealed to me that she had not yet had a lesson in painting. Montessori work is based in precise practice, with a number of practical steps building to the completion of a project. Painting does not mean sitting at a table where an adult has laid out paper, paints, and water--no lesson required. It means selecting the work, carrying it to a table, taking a small glass vial to the sink to fill with water,carrying the vessel back to the table, careful not to spill, pouring that water into a shallow vessel, going to another shelf to get a piece of paper, setting the paper on the tray, pulling out your chair, preparing the brush, and painting. Clean up is even more elaborate, and the work is complete when everything is clean, the material is back on its shelf, the child's chair is pushed in, a pencil is retrieved, the back of the work is signed, and the completed work is hung to dry. On that very crabby morning, I suggested to Clio that she ask her teacher for a lesson in watercolors. Apparently she did ask, and did get the lesson, and now there is something she can do at school that she always enjoys, and her sense of independence is validated.

I also believe that Clio was empowered by this experience of agency in directing her education. With each work tonight, Clio wanted to give us a lesson, and with the trinomial cube, she did. She demonstrated each of the steps to me, with verbal explanations and exaggerated motions: carrying the box and felt pad to the table. Unfolding the pad. Lifting the box onto the pad--with two hands, she specified. She continued: "take the top off. open this side, then this side. Put the top here." She took all of the pieces out of this 3-dimensional puzzle, laying each layer to one side of her work, then proceeded to put them back in--perfectly.

Now you do it, she said. And I did, getting reprimanded any time I lazily took two pieces out at once (one at a time, mom!) and praised when I followed her directions (good job, mom. very good.) And as I built the cube back up again, I slowed down and placed each piece deliberately, aware of the hurried way I do things now, with an emphasis on finishing. And I just marveled at this 3 1/2 year old creature, truly teaching me how to experience this puzzle box, one block at a time.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dancing Queens

1. I used to love to dance. When I was five, I was chosen with just a few other kids from my school to perform a rain dance on stage during a dance performance. As if it is just s dream, I have no idea where the performance was, or why there were local school children involved, or how many nights it went on, or whether my parents were in the audience, and where my brothers might have been. What I remember is that my mom made me a special, matching shirt and culotte outfit for the occasion. That there were beautiful women backstage dressed as elves and fairies, one painted completely a pale shimmering blue. And that, when it was our turn, we were set free from the wings to explode onto that stage with thunder and lightning, and that we ran and leapt with joy and fury, and then receded, trickled off the stage. I remember the lights and the energy and the feeling of being special up there, alone, somehow, in public.

2. I take my first real dance class at the age of eight, a tap class that meets once a week, with my neighbor Carrie. We perform at Sibley Senior High at the end of the year, on a stage that feels as large as a planet. I feel important wearing makeup. I think it is the costume- blue with white lace and a tall, ridiculous bonnet- that brings me back for more.

3. When I try out for the upper-level troupe at Esther Brindle dance theater, performing a routine that I have choreographed with Carrie, I choose to wear a half-leotard and midriff shirt, in the style of the day; because this is not regulation dance gear, I am disqualified. I am thirteen.

4. My parents are dancers. Country first, then ballroom. My dad and I went to a father-daughter dinner dance every year I was in High School, and foxtrotted at my wedding.

I wonder if I ever stood on his feet and danced that way as a little girl, the way girls do in commercials designed to make mothers cry. I think I have stood on Dave's feet that way, and Clio has, too.

5. At our wedding, the band sang our first-dance song at a different tempo than what we were used to. When the botched performance was over, we asked for a do-over. No, I asked for a do-over.

And we did it over.

Instead of feeling embarrassed by having to try it twice, as I expected, I was elated at getting it right, once.

6. When Clio was just six months old, I took her to a Showcase where my mom was performing. I haven't gotten to see her perform since, but her latest routine is on YouTube. I prefer watching her dance at weddings, just for fun. I know that dancing brings my mother joy, but I sense that performing is more complicated.

7. I demonstrate the five ballet positions to Clio, and I am surprised how quickly it comes back- both leg and arm positions; I had forgotten there were arm positions, until my arms floated from on to the next to the next. Clio pretends to copy me, but really just makes up her own positions, though she does watch me with rapt attention. She is going to her first class, and I want her to feel familiar. After that, it's up to her.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Snow fort, circa 1983

Play house, circa 2008

Pillow fort, circa 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

One Outfit, Two Ways

Despite the fact that Eleri essentially has Clio's old wardrobe (with a few of her own items thrown in here and there), she is rarely caught in repeat outfist. I suppose because their personalities are so different, they just end up in different ensembles, kind of like that occasional feature in Lucky Magazine where the stylists bring a bunch of stuff to the street, grab passersby, and then photograph the different outfits they come up with using the same raw material.

That said, there is one outfit in the repertoire that just seems like it must go together, both two years ago and today: these hand-me-down red pants and this little navy striped "sailor" t-shirt. It was a favorite combo with Clio, and it is again now. Every time Eleri ends up in it, I mean to take a picture and dig up an old one of Clio wearing the same thing. And, at last, here it is.

I will admit, I kept chasing Eleri around with a toy phone yesterday, trying to "replicate" the photo for a more clear comparison, but, alas, Eleri has a mind of her own.

I'd also like to mention that my friend Rebecca, who is right there with me in this post-a-day-challenge, also did a side-by-side comparison of her kids at the same age today. Great minds?

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved the snow. She grew up in Minnesota, where there was plenty. When snow fell in buckets, in sheets, she cheered the arrival of the snowplow for its work creating large drifts, perfect for forts, which she built with her neighbors right into the dark, until mothers all around the cul-de-sac called children home for dinner.

Once, on Halloween, she did a snow dance, and only felt a little bad when the children arrived for their candy, their costumes obliterated by snowsuits.

The little girl grew up, went east. At school in Switzerland, she had roommates from South America who had never seen the snow. The look on their faces during the first snowfall made the girl appreciate what she had taken for granted. She thought she would always remember that joy. Then, a dozen years in New York City began to turn her relationship to snow. In the city, snow was dirty and sometimes pee-stained and rarely closed down transportation, but often slowed it to a crawl. It was an inconvenience. Cars parked on the street were impossible to move for opposite-side parking regulations. When it melted, it made rivers, fjords at street corners that were nearly impassable. Once, though, the girl remembers Brooklyn under the cover of so much snow that it was muffled completely, peaceful; something she could not imagine if she had not experienced it on the streets alone, walking for blocks down the middle of the always-busy road with all the cars and buildings slumbering under their snow blankets around her.

The grown-up girl had girls of her own, and they moved to Boulder, where heavy snowfall begins in October and continues to May, and there are often days--like today--where the world is peaceful and muffled by snow as on that one dream-like day in Brooklyn. The snow is clean enough for the littlest one to eat (and she does.) And when the girl takes her own girls sledding for the first time, and they speed down the hill with their hands dragging out into the snow, and their cheeks flush, she can see the sparkle of joy again, just like the South Americans.

And she remembers that snow is beautiful.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cookie Montser

So, it turns out that Eleri has a bit of a sweet tooth. As these things go, we were really careful about giving Clio sugar from an early age, but as a second child, Eleri was introduced far sooner and has had the pleasure far more often. Clio has recently campaigned for regular desserts in our household, yet she is a child who can push away a half eaten bowl of ice cream and declare herself done. Eleri, on the other hand, will polish her own serving off in about one big inhale, then sign for "more" while she's still got a mouthful. In fact, the other day we had Thin Mints for dessert (an enterprising young Girl Scout had set up a cookie booth outside our local Safeway), and when Eleri saw me hand a second one to Clio, she quickly shoved her entire cookie in her mouth in order to ask for more.

And oh, did she enjoy it.

Friday, February 19, 2010


After meaning to do it for a very long time, I finally made these silhouettes of the girls:

Actually, first I made these silhouette's of Lizzie's kids, Laila and Owen, and then I made the ones of the girls.

When they were finished, and I was admiring my handiwork, I noticed something weird:to me, Laila and Owen looked much more like Laila and Owen when rendered in silhouette than my kids looked like themselves. Feeling curious about this, I wandered on over to Wikipedia, where I learned that a recent study at Stanford showed that, while most facial-recognition tests have been based on frontal images, people can actually identify gender and age just from a silhouette; that silhouettes are the "most immediately recognizable and indentifiable shape of the character." And I wonder if, in a way, we know our own children too well to recognize them easily, if they are too big, too complicated, too blurry around the edges for us to see them objectively, flattened out in black cardstock. I think I know Laila and Owen just enough to see in their silhouettes trademark markers, like Laila's bob and forehead wispies, as well as to imbue the small details with the sense of personality that I have pieced together through our visits and their mom's blog (from where I filched the photographes as source material).

Perhaps in support of my theory, Dave and I both recognized Eleri much more clearly in her portrait; I wonder if this is because we have not known her as long as Clio. Even now, neither of us feel that I truly captured Clio here: maybe because a serious Clio is simply not the Clio we known, and I did ask her to pose to capture a silhouette on film to have something to work from.

I hung my new artwork in our bedroom, which I think is funny because of the bird silhouettes on our bedding, but because of the placement by my side of the bed, I have noticed something else: out of the corner of my eye, Clio's profile may not capture her Clio-ness, but she sure looks, to me, an awful lot like me. And I find myself awed by the way a simple card stock cutout can both capture so much of a person's essence, while also reflecting a family lineage.

I should mention that, if you'd like to make these yourself, you can find the instructions here, on the wonderful blog design*sponge.

Or, if you want me to make one for you, go ahead and send me a profile picture (or, ideally, several) of the subject, and give me a color choice and style (traditional, feminine, modern) for the background, and I'll happily get to work.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dinner Tonight

We make just about every meal around here, including packing lunches for all four of us. This requires weekly meal planning and grocery shopping and a little ingenuity about weeknight dinners. While we do have a bunch of standbys, we average about 2 new recipes per week, many of which hail from Cooking Light magazine. I like this magazine not so much for the "light" (in fact, we often use real eggs when eggbeaters are called for and Dave never measures the oil according to their standards), but because it offers healthful meals that are easy to make, and has a host of special columns targeting a number of common cooking problems: Dinner Tonight and Superfast for when time is scarce, Budget Cooking for when money is scarce, Inspired Vegeterian for when meat is scarce, and the Enlightened Chef for global cuisine, among others. In addition, they have "cooking class" which covers basic (and not so basic) cooking techniques, and offers recipes to test them out. The magazine also recently got a facelift, with a new editor in chief and new design, and it seems to have stepped just a step or two forward into today.

I pulled about half of the recipes out of the most recent issue, and actually chose four of them to test out this week. Monday we had Roast leg of lamb with chili-garlic sauce and tonight we had Lentil-Barley burgers with Fiery Fruit Salsa: basically homemade veggie burgers. I like to experiment with this kind of recipe because they are scalable for the kids: while the salsa (and the lamb's sauce) had a bit too much heat for the girls, they ate the burgers (and the lamb) with ketchup and enjoyed the leftover mango and pineapple on the side. Here's how it turned out for the grown-ups:

I have to say, the combination of cumin in the patties with the tropical, slightly Mexican salsa (from the serranos and the tomatillos) was really quite delicious. These burgers were not, in the end, the most practical for a weeknight, and they happened in stages, with Dave cooking the lentil and barley and sauteeing things and food processing it all a couple night ago, and just cooking up the patties tonight, so I'm not sure they'll go into the regular repertoire. For vegeterians though, or anyone who loves veggie burgers, I would triple the recipe and freeze a bunch of patties for a rainy day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Monkey see, monkey do

You know that classic book Caps For Sale? Just in case, I'll recap (if you're old enough to read this, reading this should not spoil the book for you). So, there's this peddler peddling caps. No one's buying, so he doesn't have money for lunch. Instead, he heads out of town and settles down by a tree, with all of his hats stacked up on his head. He falls asleep. When he wakes up, the caps are gone- gone! He looks all around, but no hats. Eventually he looks up, where he discovers a bunch of monkeys in the tree, each holding one of his caps. This is where it gets really good, if you're 3 or so. The peddler is steaming mad, and he shakes his fists at the monkeys, demanding that they return his hats, but they just shake their fists back. Then he shakes both fists, then his leg, etc. etc. and the monkeys just mimic him, until finally, in exasperation, the peddler throws his own cap on the ground. Guess what? So do the monkeys, and all of the caps come raining down from the tree.

Why do I bring this up? Because Eleri is like one of those monkeys, blindly copying the big kids. The other night, when Dakota and family were over for dinner, Dakota and Clio came running out of the girls' room with soft blocks in their mouths. Why? who knows! But right after them, Eleri came running, a block in her mouth too, ever the game second child. It's like the way she chases them and says "guys!": she doesn't know what the game is, but she knows she's in.

Tonight, we heard her wail from Dakota's room, and I went running. Clio and Dakota were standing there with spatulas, and, looking at my red-faced baby, asked what in the world had happened. Clio told me that Dakota was "beating her on the head" and when I asked if this was true, Dakota smiled a big goofy smile and said that it was. Not long after, with Eleri fully recovered, after Dakota had apologized and insisted that he and Clio were in on it together, Eleri was eyeing the spatulas and I asked Clio to give her one. Eleri walked right over and smacked Dakota on the head, then turned around and smiled. She may not have gotten the joke, but lord, did she think herself funny.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The "Only Child" Advantage?

Clio and I had a date in Denver today. We went to my office for the morning and she watched videos and made watercolors while I got some things done. Then we headed out to lunch at Pete's Kitchen, a greasy spoon with Greek influences that has been "A Denver Institution since 1942," and headed on to the free day at the zoo. It was lovely. It was nice to focus on just one child for once, rather than wearing myself out just trying to keep tabs on two, as I did yesterday at the WOW Childrens museum in Lafayette. It was a pleasure to have a conversation with Clio over chicken fingers and fries, to actually listen to the zillions of questions she asks and do my best to answer them thoughtfully. It was fun to be out together, a dynamic duo. And I started to glimpse the reasoning of parents who choose to have just one child. It seemed so much simpler, so much more directed. I've always thought that a strange dynamic arises when there is just one child and two parents: it seems to me that the balance is out of whack, and the child becomes a third in the adult relationship in the house, rather than dwelling, with siblings, in the realm of children. But today, with Clio seeming very grown up as she chattered on about the drawings she made for my co-workers and the animals she most wanted to see at the zoo, I could see it from the other side, and see the pleasure one might find in a sole child who was necessarily adult.

None of this is to say that I would liket o have just one child; I hope it is obvious that I adore BOTH of my girls and can not imagine life one Peterson short. I just had a brief window into what it might be like, and I feel, for the first time, like I kinda sorta get it.

And if there is ever any doubt, there are moments like this one:

Tonight, Clio was peddling imaginary ice cream cones. After handing one to me, she asked Eleri if she would like one, and Eleri nodded. When Clio lobbed the pretend ice cream into the air, Eleri simply opened her mouth and "caught it" with a big 'um! without missing a beat, she then made the sign for more.

I'm not sure I could have played along like that, even if I was fully focused on Clio, and I know both Eleri and Clio are the better for having the other around.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Family Movie

When we made the move from Brooklyn to Boulder, we made the decision to leave our TV behind. Dave was convinced that we were wasting too much time watching programs we didn't actually care about, just because it was there. And you know what? He was so right. Now, I feel like I actually have time to read and clean and make stuff. The only thing I miss? Watching movies. Or more specifically, watching movies with other people: I can (and do) watch rentals on our portable DVD player, curled up in bed or on the couch. On Valentine's day evening, I thought it would be nice to watch a movie with my husband, but neither of us thought that huddling around a 9 inch screen would be particularly romantic. Likewise, my big plan for a "family movie," Finding Nemo with the girls.

In addition to the fact that this was comfortable for no one, there is the added problem of Eleri. Eleri likes to push buttons. She likes to open and close things. So trying to watch a movie with her on a device she can reach is impossible. She pauses and plays and rewinds and fast forwards. She closes the whole darn thing. Clio, in particular, finds this to be very annoying. I thought it was less annoying that when Eleri sat on my neck in an attempt to get a better look.

Now I wonder if we should get one of those flatscreen TVs with a DVD slot right in the side, store it in a closet (as our neighbors do), and just hang it on a wall when we want to watch.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Product Endorsement: Parents table-top easel

We've been encouraging Eleri to find her inner artist for many, many months now, but no matter what medium we offer her, most of the "art" happens on and around her mouth, when she tries to eat the paint, or markers, or crayons, or play doh. Or stickers, glitter, feathers, ribbons, stamps, stamp pad, scissors, glue stick or glue. So I was thrilled when, in desperation or inspiration, depending on how you see that glass go halvsies, I set this table top easel in front of her, and.... she drew. On the surface designed for drawing and only there.

My parents got the girls this kit for Christmas, and it's just now coming into its own. I have no idea what particular quality dissuaded Eleri from eating the supplies- the fact that it's upright, the nice well in the middle for putting supplies into and out of, or the two-sidedness (one whiteboard one chalkboard) all of which make the whole thing fun in itself, as an object.

I don't know, and I don't care: I'm thrilled that we have found something with which Eleri will sit still for an extended period of time, allowing her parents a little break to, oh, I don't know, pick the individual grains of rice out of the dining room rug, from lunch, when Eleri flung her entire plate off the table while attempting to perform that whole pull-the-tablecloth-out-from-under you trick.

Also, the easel comes with plastic, magnetic shapes, for sticking, stacking, and tracing.

Oh, and peek-a-booing, eating, and throwing on the floor.

At least these pieces are big enough, and colorful enough, to make clean up a snap. Or, at least, not entirely terrible.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Lizzie has decided to undergo a double mastectomy, doing everything possible to minimize the risk of recurrence down the line, and gunning for a long life; she will go in on Monday for surgery. At her husband Scott's suggestion, she has started a separate blog to track her battle with cancer. If you would like, you can follow her story at Liz's Cancer Blog, a.k.a "Suck it Cancer" - the title of which should give you a sense of the amazing attitude she is carrying into this fight: resilient, strong, funny as hell.

This morning Clio and I went to family yoga, and the class ended with a song. The instructor asked us to sing it once for ourselves and our families, and, the second time, to send it out to someone else.

Sitting there, surrounded by families and bright morning light, I found myself rocking from side to side with tears streaming from my closed eyes; I could no longer sing, so I sent these words out to Liz in my heart:

May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.

It is the closest I have come to praying in a very long time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ready for her (cat's) close-up

Frequent readers of this blog know that Clio's desire to be photographed has been weak, at best, over the past year or two. Every once in a while (usually when someone outside the family is holding the camera), she'll really ham it up. But in all other instances, we have resorted to many different techniques to capture her on film. The one met with the most success (but least integrity) is the decoy move, wherein we swear to Clio that we are not taking a picture of her, but one of her sister (mother, father, friend). Of course, as it turns out, we will happen to catch her in the frame, too. I don't love the dishonesty of this approach, though it's coming from a good place: the desire to document our kids lives for far-off family and for their future.

The other day, while actually taking a picture of Eleri, Clio wandered into the frame, and though she hid behind a cat, I could tell from the way one eye peeked out that she was game for a photo shoot.

I love how the resulting pictures really are of Clio being Clio, even if we can hardly see her face.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Multitasking Mama

Eleri has stayed home sick most of the week. She actually doesn't seem particularly sick, except for the faucet nose and the deep, hacking cough that makes her sound like she's 60, a lifelong smoker, and/or is going to literally cough up a lung. So we've been taking turns staying home with her, and between the two days this week and my own recent stomach flu, I'm feeling a little guilty about all the time I'm missing from work.

Today, however, I was scheduled for a webinar on the scintillating topic of Building a Development Committee, and guess what? Turns out a 2-hour phone call where you are only responsible for listening is the perfect work to do while entertaining your sick(ish) toddler.

First, Eleri got to work, too.

Then, pushing the multi-tasking envelope, I did a little housework, sweeping the kitchen while Eleri swept, too; ultimately, though, she decided the child-size broom made a better horsey.

We played peekaboo in the curtains

And "fort" under the table

And Eleri participated in some crawling sprints. She made very good time.

At one point I managed to blow bubbles with one hand, take photos with the other, all while keeping the phone tucked up to my ear (and understanding, for the first time, the wisdom of earpieces). These photos, however, did not turn out at all. I guess I'm learning my limits.

Finally, we had lunch during the Q+A section of my call. Eleri started mimicking the head tilt that I had kept up for the previous two hours, as if she, too, were holding up a phone.

Weirdly, while I felt a little guilt that part of my brain was occupied on work while we played, this quickly passed when I realized I had engaged with her more during the call than I might have without it- trying to keep her away from the computer wires while I check email must be much less satisfying to her than all the games we played this morning.

You know what else? My webinar was actually pretty inspiring, and it has set in motion a plan to resolve some issues I've been having at the office.

And now, I will pat myself on the back.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Artist at Work

Clio brought home a backpack full of artwork today. This was a near-daily occurrence at her day care in Brooklyn; here, they save it up and, I think, edit it to the best or most representative pieces and send it home once every month or two.

Clio has always had artistic inclinations (upon seeing the recent still life of the rubber ducks in the tub, her great grandmother declared: "She'll be an artist"), but it's fun to see how her style and ability evolve.

I like her sense of the graphic, of pattern, and of negative space evident in these collages:

Her use of color in the tight abstracts that she's been doing lately, like this one:

And I especially like her attention to faces and figures.

She has been making figurative work for a while now, but I was still really struck by this piece, which looks to me a bit like a lion or scarecrow cross-country skiing.

When I showed it to Dave, he said something like, oh that's great- she made the Francis Bacon version of that in watercolors.


A few weeks ago, after I edited some of the collection (read: threw out the lesser examples. Yes, I THREW OUT some of my artistic child's artwork), I compensated by creating a special place for Clio to display her work. Oh, wait: that's revisionist history. Here's what really happened: Clio got her hands on the tape, and started taping up pictures on every available surface- each cabinet, the walls lining the hallway, her closet doors. Her dad was complicit in this, taping piece to the upper cabinets as well (unless Clio has figured out how to set up and climb a ladder), and my sense of order felt a little...assaulted. So we consolidated the remaining work (because the part about throwing some of it out is altogether true) and allowed Clio to choose some favorites for this rotating "gallery," the back of the half-wall that separates the kitchen from the hallway across from Clio and Eleri's room.

It always seemed like a natural place for artwork- it's essentially useless for anything else- but for some reason, I kept thinking I needed to install cork tiles and pin things up. Over Christmas, I saw a tape gallery in Carrie's upstairs hallway; I think that may have been the inspiration. However it came about, it's lovely to have a spot to display Clio's work, and I look forward to rearranging it with her, to give some of these new selections pride of place.