Monkey See

Recently, the Fun Apartment had a population explosion. And I do mean explosion. Like in the millions. We are completely overrun.

You see, it all began at the Dino-Store. During our monthly pilgrimage to the New York’s most awesomest place of fun for little boys who love animals, science, and large open spaces, we saw a kit for growing sea monkeys.

Happily, curiously, miracle of miracles! I happened to have a kit for growing sea monkeys! Even more astonishing: I knew where it was!

(I wish this would work for my snow pants. Boy, are those suckers cleverly hidden somewhere around here. When I find them, I am going to hide all the Christmas presents there.)

(Also, of course I had a kit for growing sea monkeys just sitting around doing nothing. Doesn’t everyone? Where’s yours?)

So I rescued the sea monkey kit from its cold dark hiding place. And I wish I could convey the thrill that both boys felt over these creatures. We bought the bottled water. We purified. We poured. We added the eggs with bated breath. And we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

This was not entirely wasted time. The boys used this time to plan an elaborate birthday party for the sea monkeys, 362 days hence.

We waited again. We added the food to the tank.

We waited. We fed.

We gave a sea monkey kit as a birthday present to an unsuspecting dear friend turning 6. (Sorry buddy! Great party, though!)

We waited. We fed.

The boys’ enthusiasm did not dim, but I finally began to suspect that we were feeding an empty tank. I began to read up on sea monkeys. At the university lecture, I learned that sea monkeys appear within 24 hours of meeting water. We were now at least a week past that. The sea monkeys were not coming.

But the boys did not notice! See, these are, after all, *my* children. They need no evidence to believe in the impossible, or even the unlikely! In fact, they can completely ignore evidence that runs contrary to their enthusiasm. They believe! They adore! They blithely ignore!

(I shall pause here to wipe away tears of pride.)

Eventually, the Mister and I broke the news to the faithful. They were not exactly heartbroken, especially because I assured them that we would remedy the sea monkey population situation as soon as the ridiculously archaic system would allow us.

And we are not without pets. We have an ancient yet understanding cat. He’s probably the most constant thing in my life. If anyone knows anything about cats who do not live to be 45 years old, keep it to yourself, please. Ironically, it was this feline fellow who offered the solution to the sea monkey problem. By throwing up. All over.

I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the need to clean up cat vomit, but if you have ever done it, then you know about Nature’s Miracle. And it is a true miracle: you spray it on the vomit stain. And you walk away. And so does the stain. (Loaves and fishes, I tell you.)

But we had let our supply of this necessary tonic run perilously low before the most recent vomiting incident. So one day after school, we headed off to the pet store for . . . several hours. You see, pet stores are like fun houses. They are full of fish tanks, bunnies, lizards, turtles, and, of course, shipwrecks. Because if there is one thing we are really into here at the Fun Apartment, it is shipwrecks. In fact, if you ever find yourself, as I have, in desperate need of a shipwreck model, get thee to a pet store! There have more shipwreck models than pets! So, in between the many attempts to pry the boys away from the wrecks of sparkly pirate ships, I asked the clerk in an offhand way if they carried sea monkeys.

That clerk looked at me blankly, but another clerk behind her said “Yes, they’re right over here!”

Did you guys know you could buy sea monkey eggs at a pet store? Well, you can.

You can buy a lot of sea monkey eggs, as it turns out.

I've got the whole world in my hands. . . .

I’ve got the whole world in my hands. . . .

So we brought home our canister of life. The packaging assures me that our goldfish will never want for food again. Never mind, our fish (Happy, Healthy, Hopeful, and Thirsty) all departed the Fun Apartment long ago. Free range sea monkeys, I thought, in a vaguely Whole Foodsish way. None of those farm-raised captives waiting to be slaughtered for us! Those are for the fish whose mommies don’t love them.

So we tried again. I put what I thought was a conservative amount of sea monkey eggs into the tank.

We wai–

“Did you see that?? Look! They’re moving! Yay! Sea monkeys!”

That crytobiosis or whatever is powerful stuff, let me tell you. Soon we were in danger of being overrun by these little suckers. If they had banded together to vote, let’s just say it wouldn’t be the sea monkeys leaving the Fun Apartment.

There was much celebration. In fact, there was rather too much celebration, considering that sea monkey observation time happened just before bedtime. Whispered conversations about marine biology were heard long after lights out.

But maybe my conservative amount of eggs was too liberal. There was definite overpopulation in the tank (and believe me, we at the Fun Apartment know about overcrowding and density.)

We fed this new hungry crew, but that only seemed to make them sluggish. Perhaps brine shrimp eat their young and need no other sustenance?

Then, on Friday morning as we were getting ready for the day, I remembered we were having dinner guests. “Clean something!” I urged the Mister. “Like what?” he asked. “Anything,” I assured him.

So later that day I was mildly surprised to discover the sea monkey tank missing from the bathroom. Hmm. That’s a rather odd choice for cleaning up, but as I’ve noted before he’s not so great at prioritizing when guests are imminent. I assumed he had relocated the sea monkeys to some undisclosed location.

But as the weekend progressed, no sea monkeys made themselves apparent, nor did the man of my dreams know what I was asking about. “Perhaps they moved,” I thought. “Maybe they’ve got a bigger place in Queens. They’ve gone off to make all their little brine shrimpy ways in the world.”

But no. They were here, in the sea monkey graveyard / pile of washcloths that now all need laundering. They must have been knocked over in the morning’s excitement of . . . oh god knows what these boys get excited about, but it isn’t putting their shoes on, that’s for sure.

It was clean washcloths. Now its laundry.

It was clean washcloths. Now its laundry.

And so, we begin anew. The sea monkeys shall (hopefully) rise again. Maybe I can put them in charge of something. Like meal planning.

I hope they like their water salty.

I hope they like their water salty.

Hmm. I did not know I had more than one thousand words to share about sea monkeys. Motherhood changes one so.

 

 

 

 

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Clutter

The magazines I was supposed to read in January are getting a little bossy.  “Lose Your Clutter Now!” they tell me. “Start the New Year Clutter-Free!” “Organize Your Bathroom!”

Really, I feel like the bathroom is the only room I can organize. Perhaps this is helped by the fact that it’s minuscule and I am not super girly, so there are not a lot of products in there. But I do wonder why four people need four different kinds of toothpaste.

But do they need to be so bossy about it? They don’t live here. They don’t know how it is here on the ground.

Ok, I admit, there’s a clutter problem  at the Fun Apartment. But the magazines don’t seem to understand that microapartments are immediately cluttered by the simple proposition of setting down one’s keys or owning possessions. The Fun Apartment is really &%^#ing small. I can clean the place up within the limits of possibility. But then I do something crazy, like get the mail and the whole thing starts all over again.

Also, there never seem to be any kids in the magazines. I mean, even if they have kids, they don’t have real kids. The kind that play with toys. The kind that are a little bit like rock stars at hotels. The kind who consider a day without the lego bins dumped out a day not fully lived.

I might be part of the problem, too. After all, I have a natural inclination to keep stuff I like. And then there’s the Mister, who would prefer that I not mention him in this post, lest the producers of Hoarders be trolling around for material. But really, how many pith helmets does a man need?

Trust me, I’m a believer in the latest home organizing religion: bins. But we’ve run out of shelves for the bins. So the bins just float around like lifeboats for the couch.

More bins! Different bins! Lots more bins! Well, eventually one reaches a point where one believes that this is all just some Container Store shakedown. Also, I haven’t really seen a bin in the shape of a rocking giraffe, or an old typewriter, or a basketball hoop. I think they’re missing an opportunity there.

But the magazines of January make one quite purge-ish (in non-eating disorder and non-Stalinist ways). So we’re condensing the whole Pandora’s Unit of our storage situation. Countless hours of fun, I assure you.

But I might have discovered a solution to keeping the Fun Apartment clutter-free.

I'm sure Mommy will be back any minute now. . . .

I’m sure Mommy will be back any minute now. . . .

But it wouldn’t be fun anymore.

So, Clutter, it looks like you’ll be sticking around a while. Make yourself at home.

But, as one reader suggested, I am going to get rid of the magazines.

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Be it resolved . . .

New Year’s has never been my holiday. It’s ok, I guess. Maybe I am never quite ready for it. Because it chases so close to Christmas, I am always mildly surprised when it comes. It’s like a guest arriving early when you really need them to arrive late. “Oh! You’re here! Already?”

We don’t have a big tradition for it. I don’t go to fancy parties (hint hint, people). I spent this year’s big event curled up on the couch in my jammies (not even the cute ones) with box wine. And because I was looking at a clock that the boys can reach, at exactly 10:57 I heard the soft roar of the whole city swell up like a wave to celebrate. It was pretty magical. I didn’t want to be out there with them in the cold, but I was glad to be part of the whole business.

Then I immediately went to bed, where the man of my dreams had already been asleep for three hours.

I am always kind of surprised on New Year’s Day, when I wake up in the same apartment, with the same mess. I guess I kind of expect everything to be all new and different. (I also expect this when there’s a new mayor, with similar results.) But no dice. You see that pile of papers on my dresser, 2015? Go ahead, impress a girl.

And then it’s January and I’m sort of relieved to pack away the Christmas decorations (relatedly, you guys should see all the extra space we have now!!) and I’m also relieved not to spend every spare moment furiously knitting squids.

Giant squid captured on film!

Giant squid captured on film!

And I prefer Lunar New Year anyway. After all, that’s when I came out as a blogger. So I spend most of January like Janus, with one face looking dazedly back at the old year, wondering what the hell happened and one face peeking from behind the door at the new year that arrived like the early guest.

And I’m not super big on resolutions. I make them sometimes, but usually I keep it small so I can, well, keep them. This year, I ran through a whole list of ideas for resolutions. Here are some from the reject pile:

Stand up straighter. Unlikely to succeed, also: last year’s resolution.

Remember everyone’s birthday and send them a note. Until I can text directly from my brain, cross off “note” and replace with “warm thought.”

Deal with all the random boxes of crap in the bedroom. This is actually a resolution for my husband, who informs me that one cannot make resolutions for other people because it goes against the spirit of the thing, or something like that.

Develop weekly cleaning routines, with different days for different chores. Also unlikely. I don’t think the resolution should make me feel even more inadequate. I have magazines for that.

Do an awesome project–like this! Oh, shut up Pinterest, I do not believe in you!

Put your &$*#ing shoes on, I said! It’s time to go and I told you three times! Again, not a resolution for me. Also, isn’t something you say over and over and over again called a mantra?

Put a little more effort into not looking like I dressed in the dark and then smeared myself with toothpaste. Maybe . . . Hrmm. Sounds like a lot of effort, though.

Move into a bigger apartment. Mom, did you not read what I wrote about resolutions for other people?

Ultimately, I settled on these:

Have a good laugh with the boys, every day.

Hug each boy once a day when they aren’t expecting it.

Wait, haven’t I been doing this anyway? I’m not sure, to be honest, and that’s kind of scary.

I’m not sure the boys will get much out of my new lazy mom’s resolution, but I will.

"So this horse walks into a bar . . . "

“So this horse walks into a bar . . . “

They can make their own resolutions.

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Elf Help

Last year, Elf on the Shelf came to live at our house–a gift from Grandpa. And it was a godsend. Big became immediately obsessed with it, and carted it around everywhere with him. The elf even went with him in kindergarten, and seemed to have a somewhat positive effect on what was otherwise a rather uphill slog toward appropriate behavior.

I was a little dubious, at first. After all, I am a Pinterest Denier, so I certainly wasn’t going to make more work for myself moving that elf all over the Fun Apartment every night. After all, there’s just not that many places to hide things around here. How many times can we hide the elf in the cat’s litter box before that gets old? But after only one time of nearly getting caught with the elf stuffed under my pajamas, we worked out a solution. Luckily, it seems we have an elf that is lazy and kids with low expectations. We don’t have to stay up all night stuffing the elf into unlikely incriminating situations. Instead, he stays put and just writes them notes in my handwriting. And he only does it sometimes. When he remembers.

And I was mildly uncomfortable ceding my authority to six inches of plastic. And I don’t love the dynamic of it: Shouldn’t the motivation to not grab from one’s brother be “Grabbing isn’t cool”? Not when the elf is there. Then it’s “Don’t grab because this elf has his overly-large eyes fixed on you. And he will report you.” And there’s this whole thing, too.

In the end, I swallowed my reservations last year, and the elf really did help, however dodgy the whole thing seemed.

This year, I was kind of looking forward to having the elf back me up on some discipline issues. The elder lad seems to be have some background application running, that doesn’t free up enough memory for him to pay attention or self-regulate. This rough patch was starting to get ugly and I was kind of looking forward to elf-regulation, instead.

Maybe I should have gotten a tougher elf. Do they make one that had a few inches of rubber hose, or some brass knuckles, a very deep voice and lots of interesting scars? Because it only took about two nights of “The elf is watching!” before the elf became less of a magical holiday friend and more of a snitching party-pooper. Before our first week of holiday preparations was up, the boys played a game in which the elf was stuffed in a bucket and sent to Africa.

No elves were (permanently) harmed in the taking of this photo.

No elves were (permanently) harmed in the taking of this photo.

At least it was a holiday-themed bucket.

I’m relieved and disappointed all at the same time. I don’t necessarily want kids that slavishly follow a plastic doll’s instructions. (Or if I do, then I want a film crew in here now to capture the whole thing and turn into blockbuster!) But I wouldn’t mind a little fear of repercussion once in a while, or a little back up on the obviously empty threat of no Christmas presents.

That would really help on the elf control around here.

 

 

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Hey, thanks!

Now that the rest of the world has moved on to some new holiday, I thought I’d reflect on the last one, because I come late to every party.

Here’s how we celebrate Thanksgiving at the Fun Apartment:

I better get a rake. . . .

I better get a rake. . . .

Throughout November, every night at dinner. we each say what we’re thankful for that day, and write it on a leaf. So the tree starts out bare and ends up full of happy-thanky little leaves. It’s like watching Fall happen in reverse. I’m not sure where I got the idea, but I probably stole it from a magazine.

And it’s kinda fun! When we started, the oldest could barely articulate his thanks, and I think his leaves usually featured “Mommy” or “Cake.” But now he can write his own thanks, complete with illustration! And I do think he (mostly) grasps the concept of being thankful, even if he isn’t thankful for the usual suspects (Quick Poll: is anyone else in the world thankful for shipwrecks? Just checking. . . .)

Our younger fellow is now in the early stages. Most of his leaves maintain that he is thankful for “Lightning McQueen” or some other inane thing for which I am decidedly unthankful. But we’re getting there.

And it does help, after a wretched day of whining or after-school meltdowns, to pretend to be thankful for something. Because, usually it leads to being actually thankful. And if not, hey, fake it til you make it.

So, did we host a 14 person dinner here at the Fun Apartment? Not with our four chairs we didn’t. Instead, we joined some family upstate in a rambling house that slept all fourteen comfortably. It was like a wonderful dream! There was turkey! There was a fireplace! There was wine! There was snow! There were leftovers! There were games! There was more wine! It was a very “It takes a village” situation, because every time my kids wandered into the kitchen, someone fed them. And one day we all stayed in our jammies until nightfall, when we went out sledding. That may have been one of the best days ever.

The house was so big that I sometimes went hours without seeing my kids. They were content to play with their cousins, and seemed to never know boredom. It was brilliant, but I also kind of missed them. And by the end of the weekend, they were kind of falling apart. It was as if so much freedom made them dizzy. Despite all the tremendous good times, I think we were all kind of glad to be snuggled up together back here.

So, as always, I am thankful for the Fun Apartment.

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It was the best of times, it was, well, you know. . . .

Sometimes it feels like this.

Sometimes it feels like this.

I have an awful confession to make. It’s horrible.  Get ready to hate me. Put on your judging pants.

I don’t love being a stay at home mom all the time. In fact, sometimes I don’t like it at all.

Go ahead and call child services, or the pound or whoever. I’ll wait.

This is something that is not supposed to happen to stay at home moms. They are supposed to be full of gratitude and joy for all the special moments, boogers, rainbows, smeared peanut butter, and glitter that their children offer them every day.

But me? There are days when we walk by a ground floor conference room in our neighborhood where a meeting is going on and I want to smash down the door and sit down in front of that PowerPoint, eager to take notes on the sales goals of some random industry, rather than go home and play Chuggington again.

Bad Mommy, right?

See, I stay at home with the boys (Or boy, I guess, seeing as how one is in school all day). And really, when I made the choice to leave my job, it was a no brainer for me at the time. But I wish I had known a little more about what it would do to me, before I jumped into it.

Like I wish I had known that having a job makes you feel like a person, a contributing to society person, an economically empowered person, a thinking person, a skilled person. Because I didn’t realize having a job gave me all that until I didn’t have any of it.

I also didn’t know just how absorbing and all consuming being a stay at home mom could be. I figured I would take care of the boys and we would play and do fun stuff and then I’d have time to do my own stuff, you know, fun stuff for moms like vacuuming and calling to make doctor’s appointments. Nope let me tell you, these bosses are demanding. Being at home with them means being At Home. With Them. And if I am in the same room (and since this is the Fun Apartment, pretty much anything outside of the bathroom constitutes being in the same room) then I am on duty. It might be heavy duty, or it might be light duty, but it’s ON.

And it’s that ON-ness that’s so wearing. Because I’m ON for everything. My boys are actually pretty independent, but even so, there’s just so much needing going on. Sometimes, horrible mother that I am, I just want to be by myself. I don’t want to be Miss Bossyboots. I’m tired of feeling like the kitchen staff on Downton Abbey. I want to walk up the stairs without UN level negotiations. I don’t want my purse to contain enough snacks, toys, and books to teach six months of kindergarten. I want to be a person people listen to.

Am I saying that I wish I hadn’t chosen to stay home? No, I don’t think I’m saying that. I just wish someone had sat me down and told me honestly what staying at home with two kids in a tiny apartment would really look and feel like. Then I would have stocked up on more box wine. So, my Present Self is telling my Past Self. However, I’m starting to think that my Past Self may have been a little slow on the uptake. . . .

Am I saying that I want to go back to work tomorrow? Well, not tomorrow. But next week sometime, maybe. I would kind of like to go to a meeting once in a while. I’ve got this exciting new skill set, you know. (I am, of course, convinced I will never work again. Maybe you could chime in here, Future Self?)

For now, I suppose Present Self had better quit moaning about the life choice she was lucky to have and get back to it. After all, fun doesn’t make itself happen here at the Fun Apartment. It’s time to kick back and eat bonbons.

Now for the obligatory disclaimers:

1. Of course I love my kids. I love them beyond all reason. A hummingbird of joy flies between my heart and my throat as I watch them sleep. But why do I even have to say this?

2. Working moms have it even harder. And they are all awesome, way more than me (I?) But I am sometimes insanely jealous of them, because someone thinks they have value and expertise beyond wiping dirty orifices. And they pay them for it!

3. As I have drafted and rewritten this over the last couple days, the boys have been perfect angels and the fun at the Fun Apartment has reached record levels. Hypocrite much?

4. HR has announced that Stay at Home Moms Company Holiday Party will be held at the pub round the corner from the Fun Apartment again this year. Hope to see you all there. I’ll be the one in sequins with the feather boa that has peanut butter on it.

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Field Trip!

Lately, I have realized that despite living in one of the world’s greatest cities, we never spend much time in it. Not really enjoying it, doing New Yorky type things, all four of us together.

Since that’s kind of the point of the Fun Apartment, and we seemed to be missing it, I planned an outing. “We’ll go to IKEA!” I thought. “All together! What Fun!”

(Believe me, the irony of going to visit a Scandinavian Megabox Superstore with a giant parking lot as a New York activity is not lost on me. But I’m cool with it.)

So off we went. And here’s something cool about visiting the Brooklyn IKEA: Sure, you can be a regular person and take a car or bus there, but why would you, when you could take a water taxi?

Rollin' on the river.

Rollin’ on the river.

We as a family have always been suckers for boat rides. In fact, I’ve always been a little surprised that we don’t live on Staten Island. Also, once the man of my dreams discovered that the water taxi stopped at the home of his mistress, we had to physically restrain him from diving off the boat before we reached the dock.

And we disembarked in the giant wild IKEA parking lot for our adventure. “Yay! Family activity! The kids will love this!” I thought. All those pretend rooms! We will have to pull them out of here with pliers!”

This store has chairs!

This store has chairs!

However, upon entering, all my vast hopes were dashed. The yahoos spotted the playroom. And after that tantalizing sight, the charm of the little rooms went out the pretend window. During our long progress through the showroom, I had to answer the question “When can we go to the playroom?” a number of times that I have no idea how to express using scientific notation, not being a math person.

OK, there was a small amount of fun in the pretend rooms. And I wasn’t even that into them, either. There must be something wrong with me. Is IKEA-mmunity a thing? No new and novel ideas jumped out at me. We will not be redoing the Fun Apartment with unpronounceable accessories. Kinda surprising, considering I’m pretty Swedish.

Hmm. He was just here. . .

Hmm. He was just here. . .

Although the section with kids beds was a bit of a revelation. Everyone was very intrigued by these trundle bed drawers. But if we got one, the bed in the drawer would block the door to our bedroom, so scratch that. Or are you allowed to push in the drawer while the kid is sleeping?

But finally we proceeded to the playroom, where the tired kids had to wait in a long line to enter paradise through the eye of a needle. Smarter people, I assume, not being one myself, bring their kids there straightaway, and then dash off, load up those enormous bags on funky carts and reclaim their offspring somewhere near the hot dog part of the outing. As it was, the hot dog line seemed to expand to outrageous proportions every time we went near it. (Although only one of us likes hot dogs. It’s the little guy.)

Eventually, we claimed the children, our box and obligatory impulse buy, along with a package of apple cookies for our return journey and IKEA spit us out into the giant parking lot. Dazed, we made our way in the rain back to the water taxi.

All in all, after we stumbled in late for dinner and long past bath time, the outing wasn’t a complete wash. The resident architect made several notes and is over on the couch sketching on graph paper. (Or possibly drafting a divorce agreement.) While the whole shebang was a good faith effort, I think next weekend we might try something a little more manageable.

But we did secure this:

Traytable

Tray tables in their locked and upright positions.

Awesome, right? It has solved the racetrack, play kitchen, and Lincoln Log storage problems in one fell swoop! The man of  my dreams won our storage solution contest! And I didn’t even know he liked squid.

Except, now I think we might need another one. Maybe two.

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