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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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:
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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?

Splashdown.

Splashdown.

 

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:

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And what more do you need, really?

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

 

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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. . .

 

 

 

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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.

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(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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What we’re reading–and where.

This is my kid all right.

This is my kid all right.

We recently considered letting go of our couch, in favor of a large chair. Hey, any floor space gained is a battle won, right? Our couch, after all, was not even new when we dragged err brought it home. It has broken springs on one side and its depth ensures that once you sit on it, you are staying put. When we have guests, I like to watch the fear flicker across their face as they begin to sit down, and go much lower than they have reckoned. Yes, we thought. A chair! A new(er) chair! Some space on the floor! Win.

Lose, actually. We tried the chair for a day, and then discovered that the chair did not sufficiently accommodate three for reading time. Inevitably, one little rump would be dangling off the side, arms desperately clinging to my neck. “I don’t have any woom!” came the howls. And if we cannot read in it, it has no place in the Fun Apartment.

So we re-embrace our dilapidated couch. Toy bins would have aggressively colonized the new floor space, and we have always liked the color, anyway. All that brings me here:

In honor of Children’s Book Week, I thought I’d share some of our favorite reads. Actually it was a few weeks ago, but I never believed in confining celebrations to a single day or week. For example, at least one portion of summer could be renamed “Mommy’s Birthday Self-Indulgence Metric Month!”

So, to continue the fun of Children’s Book Week, here are some books we (I) have been enjoying reading, flanked by boys, each little bum comfortably settled.

Pssst! Cover

We all fell pretty hard for this one, in which a little girl visits the zoo and is besieged with requests from the animals. In fact, it spawned a rash of “Pssst . . . can you bring me a _____?” type requests here at the Fun Apartment. I force-read this book to a dinner guest and the Man of My Dreams nearly choked trying to read it (to himself!) without giggling after bedtime.

 

Can I Play Too? (Elephant & Piggie Books) Cover

Having a kindergartener means having kindergarten homework. And that means reading 20-30 minutes every night. (One time it also meant writing a persuasive letter, which I thought was rather a lofty request of a 5 year old, but I digress. . . . ) Anyway, it can be hard to convince a boy to sit and read really inane–but easy to read!– books, but the minute I pull out Elephant and Piggie and ask which one he wants to be, we get the homework done, between the chortling. I will never be tired of reading Elephant and Piggie.

 

The Enormous Crocodile Cover  Fantastic Mr. Fox Cover  The BFG Cover
We’re kind of moving into Chapter-Book-Land here, and I feel like I have spent my entire life waiting for this role: handing my kids chapter books so completely-life-changingly-good that they truly become better people from reading them. Trust me, I have been stockpiling for this. But I am also struck by the urge for restraint. (Those who know me well know how rare this impulse is for me.) But, I tell myself,  there’s time. There’s time for Harry Potter. There’s time for The House with the Clock in its Walls. There’s time for The Golden Compass. But when it comes to Roald Dahl, we have already wasted too much time! Open The Enormous Crocodile right away! Put your fingers on The Magic Finger! Keep the nightwatch out for The BFG! Quick! I said there’s no time to waste! Why are you still reading??

Fine, your loss. But I did warn you.

 

You probably have never heard of Moose, Goose, and Little Nobody, but it is by the author of The Westing Game (I swear, there’s time!) and you should find a copy right away and read it aloud, even if you are alone.

Well, here (because balance in all things, right?) are some books I hate reading and would really like to speak to their acquisitions editors about. I have already vented about several other best-loathed titles here.

I'm Fast! Cover

Seriously, these authors need to step away from their keyboard and easel. Just STOP.

 

The Grouchy Ladybug Cover

I know, I know. Everyone *loves* Eric Carle, but his books are just a little too “teachy” for me. Reading this one turns Mommy into a very grouchy ladybug. And I hid that one with the squeaky duck button far under the bed, where only the cat can find it.

 

Curious George (Sandpiper Books) Cover

Could the man in the yellow hat at least keep an eye on the monkey he kidnapped? The old ones are one hundred pages long, the new ones are at best inane, and the ones for the tv show are enough for me to wish that monkey back in the jungle (or worse, she typed, threateningly.)

Don’t get me wrong, I will read whatever book a little boy puts into my hands with a pleading look. I’ll head for the couch. But there are some that I should never have brought home. Because once you invite them in. . . .

[By the way, are you looking for a blog about children's literature that is truly the real deal, not just slapdash snarkiness like I'm doing? Then it is right here. This blog is the cool older blog that I want my blog to grow up to be like.]

So, what do you all read? What do you cram behind the couch?

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Q & A

The Fun Apartment has been getting a lot of love recently. It was a little strange and surreal to see our lifestyle splashed up on the screen. In fact, it was so surreal that I found myself going through the slideshow asking “Hmm I wonder where they keep their recycling?” before I realized that I know exactly where “they” keep their recycling, because they are us and I was looking at photos I had taken of our apartment (Answer: I moved it out of the frame when I was taking the picture. In actuality, it is right by the door and threatens to crawl out and down the stairs by itself. What a way to welcome the guests!)

It was quite thrilling to be featured on babycenter and although I feel slightly overexposed, people who read the piece seem overwhelmingly supportive, if puzzled. I admit, I was in sort of a pre-emptive flinch about the open comments section. It’s a little hard not to be over-sensitive when you invite a lot of strangers into your home without much context.

(I know, I know — I did invite them. But still: “Mudhole? Slimy? My home this is!”)

Lots of questions were raised and I thought I’d answer some of here, rather than clog up the comments section.

Predictably, the most obvious question is this: Why live there?

If I had an easy answer to that one, I probably wouldn’t have a blog. In a nutshell, we live in New York City because the Man of My Dreams is a native New Yorker, who already owned the Fun Apartment when I met him. It was a construction site, back then. We moved away from the city for a while and then came back. His family is all here and it’s important to us to be near them. My own family is a little too spread out to create a critical mass.

But why do you live in a tiny apartment? Well, we own the Fun Apartment outright and for incredibly boring financial it has to be our primary residence right now.

Do you have a table? Yes, rather a nice one. But I forgot to take a picture of it. It’s between the kitchen and the living room / alcove. We’re big into family mealtimes here.

How do you have people over? We start early. For dinner guests, we encourage an early start to cocktail hour and then after the meal is completed, one of us wrestles the boys into their jammies, while the other grown up escorts the guests to the bar around the corner.

Hey, great place! Thanks! The Man of My Dreams is an architect, and terribly handy.

Can the kids have the bedroom and you take the living room? Then you could be grown ups! We’ve thought about it, but it would either mean putting our bed away every night, or giving up having a living room. For now, it doesn’t seem to work for us.

Why not fill in the window, so it is more like a wall? Well, it does have a blind that’s not quite opaque. We bring it down on really good tv nights.

Paint the pole! Actually it’s a steam pipe, and a major heat source. My painter friend assures me that it is not to be painted.

Will you need to move eventually? YES.

I am way better at organizing / housekeeping / raising kids than you. Congratulations. However, that is not difficult.

I couldn’t do what you’re doing. Well, you’d be surprised. But, it’s ok. You don’t have to.

Hey, bloom where you’re planted, right? Right on!

There’s no way to follow your blog. Oops. I thought there was. Somehow my  mom figured out how to do it. Oh well, I fixed that now. Sorry!

And thank you, thank you, thank you for visiting the Fun Apartment!

 

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