First time for everything

The Fun Apartment has seen some firsts lately. For example, there was the first day of first grade. This was also the first time Big put on his shoes without being asked–same day! There was my husband’s first time remembering where the salad spinner goes. My first attempt at grilling flatbread was largely successful, too.

But the big first is this:

Somehow, the button down shirt just says "first day of school," doesn't it?

Somehow, the button down shirt just says “first day of school,” doesn’t it?

That’s right, the little guy is going somewhere, too. OK, it’s only two mornings a week, but that’s Two! Mornings! Every! Week! And it’s at the Y! Where another grown up is the boss of the fun!

We’ve needed this for a while. For all the press about how awesome staying at home with your kids is, there are drawbacks. (Oh, let me count the drawbacks. . . ) I can’t really introduce him to circle time. There’s only so much Thomas the Tank Engine I’m willing to withstand. And the poor kid doesn’t have any friends. Sure, there are kids he sees on the playground occasionally. There are younger siblings of his brother’s school friends. But there are no friends that are just his.

So, while my enthusiasm for this is entirely selfish, my motives are not. He needs to learn things from other people. He needs his own friends (although I will promptly begin to stalk all the other parents for the full contact bloodsport that is playdate scheduling.)

And at drop off, there was a pang. There was the sweet feeling of his little hand holding mine for reassurance. Then there were Legos on a table. After that it was “When are you leaving, Mommy?”

I’m kinda working myself out of a job here.

That’s the point, though, isn’t it? Ultimately, I want these boys to not need me. And there are definitely times that I want them to stop needing me right now. But we’ll go forward gently.

After all, one of them is still too short to reach the sink.

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Filed under Not cool, Mommy, The outside world

Scrub a dub

The Man of My Dreams and I are alike in many ways. We both hate mushrooms. We both love old stuff nobody else wants. But we are also different, which is how things work, right? Here’s a way we are different: When it comes to cleaning, I am a straightener. He is a scrubber.

That means, in practice, that I keep the Fun Apartment from looking like a storage unit / Devil’s library and he cleans things that are gross, and does not shudder. It also means that before someone comes over to visit, our conversations go something like this:
Me: Dinner guests will be here in 30 minutes! I’ve got to stack all these books, gather the newspapers, fish the underpants out of the bathtub, clear off the counters, and do the dishes!
MOMD: Great! I’ll scrub the floor under the refrigerator!

Training, people. It takes training. And I do think you need both a straightener and a scrubber in the house. Lately most of the scrubbing falls to me, because of the weekend directive.* And I am not terrifically good at it. But I did buy myself a mop for my birthday. I was thinking that it would help to make mopping the floors more than an annual event.

(Hyperbole, you are telling yourselves. Exaggeration for the sake of humor. To which I reply: Err. . . .yeah.)

I had not thought about what cleaning personalities the boys have, beyond “frustratingly little.” At least, based on the fact that they can dump out a bin of dinosaurs and then immediately lose the ability to see those dinosaurs, it’s unlikely they are straighteners.

But yesterday, I discovered that perhaps they are scrubbers. Based on some early enthusiasm, I bought them each a little spray bottle and animal themed mitten washcloth for cleaning. So yesterday, I mixed a very simple, kid-friendly vinegar and water spray, and set them to work in the bathroom. Spray and scrub. Spray and scrub.

Actually, it was more spray spray spray spray spray spray spray spray spray spray spray and scrub. But still. It was cleaning. It put us all to work toward one goal — clean bathroom. And it worked. They cleaned the tile and the toilet while I cleaned the woodwork and bathtub. I actually tried to hold them back from cleaning the toilet, until I realized that it is possible that I will never have to do that job again! (To be fair, cleaning the toilet would not need to be done that often if there was any aim in their game.) I feel like a damn genius! And the bathroom smells like a chip shop!

Does this violate child labor laws? Or child pornography laws?

Does this violate child labor laws? Or child pornography laws?

I think I’m on to something here. . . . A fun afternoon resulted in a clean bathroom.
Why a clean bathroom, you ask?

Grandma. Is. Coming.

*The weekend directive, for the Man of My Dreams is basically this: Take the kids somewhere. For several hours.

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Filed under Home Ec

I shall return

At long last, we have reclaimed the Fun Apartment!

Actually, I’m not sure if stumbling in at 2 am, and dumping armloads of cheap Midwestern groceries on the kitchen floor can be called reclaiming. But guess what: the Fun Apartment has never been a more welcome and awe-inspiring sight! Sure, it has the same crap strewn all over, and the same storage issues, but it’s our crap and they’re our storage issues, and the place looks like heaven!

(All of you who bet good money on us never returning to this cluttered and dusty paradise can now hand it over. Suckers.)

The boys were delighted to see all their toys. They were restrained (with difficulty) from playing with them upon our 2 am triumphal entrance. But bright and early the next morning, mere hours later, they had taken out every. single. one. of. them. Luckily, this occupation held their attention while I tried to remember where I keep things, like the milk and my ATM card.

Here’s something interesting about spending such a long time in spacious places. It seemed like wherever we stayed, the boys instantly found a tiny, cozy corner and claimed it as their own. They would find a corner behind a chair, or a closet and fall instantly in love. Then they’d move all their stuff in. They also expressed deep initial reservations about doing such terrifying activities as “going upstairs to get their pants,” and “going outside to play,” and “asking Grandpa to make them some bacon.”

Feels like home.

Feels about right.

I know, I know. My eye probably got all stretched out taking in all that open space while we were away, but it seems to have snapped right back. I will reiterate what I have always thought about living in the Fun Apartment: It’s not much, but it’s home.

That's what the Fun Apartment needs: A rubber room!

Just what the Fun Apartment needs: A rubber room!

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Filed under Living Small, The outside world

Transportation Nation

Yesterday, while I was visiting a friend in his enviably awesome home, he told me “I don’t know how you can navigate the subway system.” But now that the Fun Apartment has spent some time on this extended Midwestern uh staff retreat, I find myself saying the same thing. “I don’t know how you have a car and put kids in it every day to go places!”

See, in New York City, when we go somewhere we walk down (a lot of) stairs and I put the kids on their scooters. Then I pretend I’m not with them, so it appears to strangers that they are terrorizing shins and ankles completely unsupervised. Or we take the subway, which is a train ride with a big map, so pretty much solid gold entertainment for little boys.

But here, where people live like, well, regular people, getting places is a whole other ballgame. I really don’t know how people have kids and cars together. Every time you want to go somewhere, you get in your car. No problem, right? But the kids have to get in too! So you finally herd them out there. But then you have to help them get in the car, into the car seats, do all the buckles and (ideally) close the car doors. Then you are probably going somewhere, because no one would put their kids in the car for the fun of it. So when you get to wherever you are going, and get out of the car, the kids have to get out, too! And you have to help them! And they have taken their shoes off!

And while they were in the car, they probably had a snack, whether sanctioned or not. And that snack is smeared on their car seat or seat belt straps or smushed to crumbs on the seat. Maybe you have heard the dread-inducing phrase “Uh oh!” from the backseat. Or they have poured water on themselves. Where did they get the water? I don’t know.

Seriously, I would wrestle my kids up and down to and from the fourth floor ANY DAY, over getting them in and out of the car. My hat is off to all of you. I don’t know how you do it.

I am really beginning to see the lure of big stores that sell everything, because if I only have to buckle and unbuckle one time, then I would go to one store to buy thread, toothpaste, box wine, jeans, and razor wire.

Right now, we are looking into a variety of transportation alternatives:








Filed under The outside world

Raising Midwesterners in 6 easy steps

Off we go on our five week road trip! There is a lot to teach these boys about non-city living. There are no crosswalks. There is no street noise to lull them to sleep. There are other rooms! And there was this conversation on our first morning:

Big: Mommy! The grass is all wet!

Me: That’s dew, sweetheart.

Big: Do what?

Clearly, I have a lot of work to do. Ah well,I don’t intend to bore you all to sobs with vacation photos, but here are a few moments from our initial excursions.

I'm so, you know, whatever!

I’m so, like, you know, whatever!

Mommy, what does "punchy" mean?

Mommy, what does “punchy” mean?




What's that Brooklyn? You say you have a bridge, too?  Tell me later.

What’s that Brooklyn? You say you have a bridge, too?
Tell me later.

But then there was this:


And what more do you need, really?

(In case you are wondering, they both threw up in the car. Yay!)


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Filed under The outside world

And . . . they’re off!

One big secret to living in the Fun Apartment is to get out of the Fun Apartment as often as we can. On a day to day basis, that means spreading out the errands so we always have somewhere to go. It means going to the park down the block even if it’s raining (hey, now it’s a water park!)

And in the summer, it means taking this whole show on the road! As I am a mere settler in this god-forsaken city, I have a sacred responsibility to raise these boys as Midwesterners, in the middle of this urban jungle. As Calvin Trillin said about raising kids in the city, “Despite all evidence to the contrary, you’re being raised in Kansas City.”

So that means we are packing up to spend several weeks visiting family and friends in the great heart of the nation. In practice, it means I will have to explain why my kids are turning down hot dogs, but will eat sushi and falafel. They will have to learn how to cross the street when there is no intersection. They will learn how to ride bikes. And I will have to give these same answers over and over again:

“Fourth floor. Nope, no elevator.”

“Yes, 480 square feet is about the same size as your garage.”

“No, I don’t know how we do it either.”

“Because milk is really expensive in the city. Why are you buying 8 gallons?”

Before you start to think of us as people who have a summer home, let me assure you, we have no such thing. I just have generous parents with extra bedrooms and a deep need to see their grandchildren. They are even lending us their car.

So we are packing up to drive halfway across the country. This far we haven’t needed to burst through the glass screen and rely on the iPad for entertainment. Although it looms large in our future, I am certain. Once that smooth gray cover is opened, it can never really be closed again. So we are holding off as long as we can.

Happily (?) driving in the summer offers some great views of construction vehicles and I always come loaded for bear when it comes to travel entertainment. Whenever we go anywhere, by plane or car, I pack their backpacks with new (well, new to them, anyway) books, crayons, random items I have squirreled away all year.

And a plastic bag. Because the big guy throws up in the car.

They pull their own suitcases, too. Really fast.

They pull their own suitcases, too. Really fast.

So, the Fun Apartment is on the move. Let’s see how this goes. . .





Filed under Living Small, The outside world

40 winks . . . to zero.

The end of the school year is approaching. This is a time that once filled me with joy and now leaves me with large amounts of dread. Two boys, one mommy, no outside routine. It could get ugly, people.

Mostly this terrifies me because once school gets out, it means the end of the nap. Our Little has been on the verge of not needing it for a while now (which explains why he is still banging around in his crib at this very moment), but I’ve been insisting, because nap time is also “Mommy’s utterly self-indulgent restorative time.” And it will come to an end. Soon.

That in itself is somewhat remarkable, because at least someone in my care has been napping now for five and a half years. And while this happened, I could flip my brain around for a little while and do things, like . . . well . . . umm, actually I’m not sure what I did, but it must have been terribly important and productive. You can take my word for it. But I worked hard to get each one of those naps.

After all, there is no shortage of accepted wisdom about putting your baby to sleep. Indeed there is an entire industry centered around this one–seemingly simple in practice!–activity. I followed none of this advice with Little. None.

Don’t nurse the baby to sleep! Put him down awake! Let him learn how to fall asleep on his own!

If you live in a tiny apartment (with the crib directly in the middle), just throw all that good advice out the window. I nursed our little guy right out, for bedtime and for naps, until he was almost 18 months old.* Why did I do this? Well, mostly because I had to. If I put him down awake, he was going to stay that way. If I wanted him to sleep (and I did–desperately) I had to put him down asleep. Otherwise, I would have to barricade myself and his older brother in our bedroom for two utterly silent hours. As it was, there were times when I had to count on a 3 year old not making ANY noise for 45 minutes while I bounced, snuggled, and shushed the little guy until he finally succumbed to the sandman. That is like asking a 3 year old to list the works of Shakespeare in order of publication, or to gulp down the kale smoothie without complaint. (To his credit, he did the first thing like a champ. The other two, well we’re still working on it. When was A Winter’s Tale written, again?)

Ever since Big went off to school, I have the luxury of spending lots of time to get the nap going. I still cuddle and sing him to sleep. It takes time, yes. And I put in that time, because that nap is my only break in the zany tedium blissful cakewalk that is stay at home mothering.

What do I do during nap time? I read. And I eat lunch. All by myself. (It sounds vaguely pornographic, doesn’t it?)

Mind you, for several months now, I have to keep his nap to a bare minimum, lest he be staring at me wide awake as I tumble into bed. But if he doesn’t catch that tiny bit of sleep midday, our evenings are spent with a tiny boxer who can’t hold his liquor. If he isn’t punching the cat or his brother, he’s slumped over one of us, declaring his love and fealty. So I know that my quiet, sanity-restoring literary lunches are not long for this world.

And quickly. Once Big is paroled from kindergarten, trying for nap time would closely resemble a hostage situation. Scooping out my eyes with a spoon sounds like more fun. Plus, I don’t think our fire escape would support all those hostage negotiators and SWAT teams.

So it goes. I have 7 (seven) more nap times left until they are gone forever. I am guarding them fiercely. You can forget about getting me to volunteer for stuff –PTA, I’m looking at you! After those seven naps, I will have to scramble to find that utterly alone time somewhere else — maybe when they are both peeing? That should buy me at least 2 minutes of solitude.

The nap is dead. Long live the nap.


(Have any of those doomsday scenarios of ignoring sleep advice descended upon us? Nope. He can fall asleep by himself and sleeps all night. Rivers continue to run toward the sea.)

*His older brother is not native to the Fun Apartment, and could take all his naps in ANOTHER ROOM. Shortly after we moved, he stopped napping. Too much fun, I guess.

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Filed under Living Small, Mistakes I have made