The Downward Spiral

Have I mentioned the Fun Apartment has an extra feature to make it even more fun? It’s on the fourth floor! That’s three flights of stairs!

You probably know not to ask, but I’ll answer anyway: Nope. No elevator.

That’s right, it’s that New York City exclusive: the fourth floor walk-up. And honestly, the stairs don’t really bother me that much. Coming back from Trader Joe’s, I groan inwardly to look at them, but for the most part, they go by quickly enough. Thanks to the free babysitting at the Y, I’m not gasping for breath at the Fun Apartment’s door. Also, imagine the health benefits for the kids! After all, they have been scaling the heights for years now. Little demanded to climb them at a shockingly early age and I’ll be honest, I was happy to let him. I just walked up slowly behind him as he scooted after his big brother. Aside from the horrible morning when he, at eleven months, decided he’d also like to go down and did so in a barrel roll, he’s never expressed any hesitation.

Until now.

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You know how your day has pinch points in it? Times when you have stuff that has to happen before anything else can happen? I’ve found that my kids have been remarkably astute at finding the pinch points. And flopping down, howling, in the middle of them.

And that’s what Little is doing now. He sits at the bottom of the stairs and loses it. Sometimes he wants to be first one to the top, but the colossal size of his fuss distracts him from actually moving until his brother has been inside the apartment for ten minutes. Other times he wants to play “visitor.” That’s when he sits at the bottom of the stairs until I have come up. Then he comes and rings the doorbell. But if there is any hitch to his game, like say, me leaving the door open so I can keep track of him, then he throws down like a boss.

(Confession: one day last week, it was so bad that I was really, actually tempted to close the door, lock it, and not open it until the man of the house came home from work, three hours later. I didn’t actually do that, so I suppose that’s a win.)

We have really nice, understanding neighbors here at the Fun Apartment. And they have to put up with a fair amount of our kid business anyway. I don’t want to subject them to any more. But right now, they are getting a good hard look at the hopeless poopstorm err fine art of parenting.

Usually, the little guy and I go on several daily outings. Now, with this insurmountable stair problem, I am tempted to stay locked up here in the wonder palace until the siege has ended.  At least it’s New York City. They deliver anything here.

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Sit on This.

A development here at the Fun Apartment: A New Couch!

I always think our living room is like a dollhouse living room.

I always think our living room is like a dollhouse living room.

Actually, I think technically it is a chair and something called a “sectional.” But for our purposes, it’s a couch! It’s not exactly new, either. We got it the way the Mister and I get all of our furniture: someone else decided to get rid of it. In fact, this is how we got our previous couch, although someone had taken the trouble to haul that one all the way down to the street.

This new couch never spent any time on the street, so it has that going for it.

But it fits perfectly in the couch place! Perfectly! We all fit on it comfortably! And I can put all the board games under it! It opens up the whole room! We are in heaven! I think we could possibly accommodate overnight guests on the new couch, but that would probably have to be some sort of emergency situation, because the guest would either have a very early bedtime, or would have to spend an hour whispering with us on our bed, in the dark. (Sounds cozy, doesn’t it? Do let us know if you’re visiting!)

But in our new living room world order, our coffee table doesn’t fit. It’s too long and wide. It’s got to go.

The Man of My Dreams and I are not totally on the same page about its replacement. He sent me a picture of a tasteful small square table , with another table under it. What the hell can I store in that, I ask you? I sent him a picture of a tall, wrong color stand-y sort of thing with shelves and drawers. He said it’s too tall. But look at the storage! I urged him. Imagine all the things we could put away in there! He couldn’t see it.

So, he wants something to look nice, with lots of crap around it. I want something that might look a bit off, but with no crap around it.

Clearly, our value systems are clashing.

Also, our budget for filling this need is somewhat limited. It pretty much consists of my leftover birthday money.

I feel like we should have an open contest. Anyone who finds a solution that looks ok and holds a bunch of stuff wins! We’ll put up a plaque with their name on it and I’ll knit them a squid.

See! Airbnb, here we come!

Your name here.

I wonder if we should get rid of the coffee table, just to light a fire under ourselves. Imagine the space! (Imagine all the toys without permanent homes!) Imagine the open floor plan! (Imagine that open floor disappearing under Lincoln logs and race tracks and pretend food!)

You see the problem, right? I’ll start working on the squid.

 

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Box whine

Before I had kids of my own, I always heard people talk about the terrible twos. I began to mentally prepare myself.

After I ended up with my own little you-know-whats, I dreaded the older one turning two. The terrible twos are coming, I would tell myself. But how could the terrible twos alter this angelic guilelessness? I would ask myself. How is that even possible?

And when the first set of twos sailed by mostly without incident (potty-training being a major exception for which I blame myself for, you know, wanting it to happen), I congratulated myself for being such an awesome, non-alarmist parent! See, that was a breeze, I told myself. Bring on the teen years!

Ahh, my hubris. I did not realize, not being much for math, that three comes after two. And three is what I should have dreaded all along.

Because when kids are two, they get fussy. They have preferences. They want stuff. They get frustrated. They are not rational. But they are distractable. “I know you don’t like to eat a broken banana, sweetheart, but . . . Look! There’s a bunny on your shirt! Yay! Oh, you want a banana? Here!”

But when they are three, they have all that same stuff as two year olds, but they are not distractable anymore. And they’re stamina for tantrums is much greater. You try to distract them with their shirts and you get a look that says “$&%# your bunny! This banana is broken and I will not eat it!”

I did survive my first throw-down-threes, emerging with only a vague dread of odd numbers. Looking at my sweet, innocent second child, I would swear to myself that he couldn’t possibly mean me any harm. It will be different, I told myself.

I apparently have a great capacity for self-deception.

Sure enough, three came after two.

And then came the whining.

Ugh. The whining. At Fun Apartment, there is no escape from the whining. There is no “other room” to which I can escape. There is no mysterious soundproof zone that the whining cannot penetrate. There’s just the Fun Apartment with whining in it. (I suppose there is the bathroom. But it smells like vinegar in there.)

I have frighteningly few strategies for dealing with the whining. I tried what worked (miracles) with the older brother :”Mommy can’t understand what you’re saying when you’re whining. I just hear a strange buzzing noise. Can you say it in your big boy voice?” (The older brother is a little un-savvy, I have to admit.)

There is ignoring. That doesn’t stop the whining though. I still have a floppy boy in the middle of the apartment whining my name. Ignoring usually goes like this:

Little: Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . .  (repeat until duration of 8-10 minutes)

Me: W.H.A.T.

Little: Answer my question!

Me: What is your question?

Little: . . . . uh . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . . Moooommmmeeeeeee! . . . .

(There seems to be no maximum number of times that this scene can be repeated within the Fun Apartment on any given day.)

I suppose there is patience. I could have patience. Perhaps some day I will.

Until then, I have box wine. And a crazy straw.

Cheers.

Cheers.

 

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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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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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