Monthly Archives: January 2014

Happy NEW New Year

I worked once in a magical place that really did Lunar New Year up right. We celebrated with a big concert and then we had the day off! To go see the dragon dance through Chinatown! It was such fun that I began to think of the other New Year’s Day (Solar New Year? You know, the January 1st one.) as just a warm up to starting the real new year: Lunar New Year. I could resolve something and try it out, but it actually didn’t count until I resolved to do it for Lunar New Year. Also, it’s a good way to remember to cut my hair. And erm clean the Fun Apartment.

So, here at the Fun Apartment, I am celebrating Lunar New Year, because the other New Year hasn’t gotten off to the best start–unless 2014 is destined to be the Year of Losing Important Stuff, and Never Finding It Again. With that as the alternative, who wouldn’t be looking forward to starting the Year of the Horse instead?

But last year, I did make a January 1st resolution. And I kept it, but I didn’t tell anybody. I wanted to try it out on me first. And my mom. (Hi Mom!) So now, I’m telling you people, because as it turns out, I’m not that interesting to myself. And I don’t think Mom is all that objective.

Here is a little conversation I had with you about it. In my head.

“You have had a blog for a year, but you didn’t tell anyone?” I’m telling you now. Besides, you didn’t miss much.

“And you never update it — like what happened to November and December?” I wonder that same thing.

“It seems to be a lifestyle blog . . . about your lifestyle.” I know. It fills me with self-loathing.

“So you have a tiny apartment. You know regular people don’t live like this, right?” I should hope not.

“Do you enjoy exploiting your children like this?” Well, they get a lot of free labor out of me, so I guess the exploiting goes both ways.

“Sheesh, this whole blog thing is lousy with half-baked theories, buried leads, grammatical errors, and rushed conclusions!” Yes. Yes it is. But if I waited until the theories were fully baked, the leads teased out, the grammar polished, and the conclusions fully um concluded, well, it would never see the light of day.

So, here it is, in some of its glory. The Fun Apartment. Blog-wise.

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Filed under Not cool, Mommy, The outside world

Delinquency

There’s not an easy way to admit this: My son is having trouble in kindergarten. Lots of trouble. And not the usual kind of trouble. Most kids who struggle in kindergarten struggle with the academics, the learning part. Not my kid. He’s a year and half ahead, according to the principal. Yes, the principal was at the meeting.

The learning part? No problem. But that’s not all kindergarten is. It’s also doing part. It’s knowing how to line up, how to hold a pencil, how to raise your hand, how to walk down the stairs, how to sit on the rug for a minilesson, how to put your folder away, how to find your partner, how to bring your lunchbag and gloves home again. It’s the business of school. And that’s where the trouble is: in the business.

Before I threw away my promising career, I was a teacher. And I specialized in the lower grades. “I know about kindergarten,” I told myself. “I know about kids who are 5. School is going to be easy for my kids.”

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And let me tell you, I have a whole new perspective on parent/teacher meetings. My son’s kindergarten teacher couldn’t be more patient, kind, diligent, willing, resourceful, and all-around-awesome, but it is very hard not to leave the third meeting about your child’s behavior and not think “I have screwed up my kid so much that he is doomed to failure at school.”

So, what’s the trouble, you ask? Is he hitting other kids? Is he throwing blocks? Is he inciting rebellion? Nope. But he’s not listening, or if he is, he’s not doing. His class is late for everything because they are all waiting for him to get his act together and get in line. Does he hurry, knowing they are waiting? Nope. Instead, he creeps down the stairs during dismissal, seemingly unaware that the entire school backed up behind him. He has missed all of choice time some days because he took 15 minutes to put his folder in his backpack.

Hey, maybe he can’t focus, right? Except he can focus. We’ve all seen him do it. Maybe he can’t hear! Except he can hear, we had him tested. Maybe he can’t hurry. Well, take it from me, there’s no rushing this kid. He goes at his own pace. But sometimes that pace is really fast. It’s just not when I want him to be moving really fast.

Is he doing these things on purpose? I don’t know. The principal called it “determined defiance.” I’m not sure if I totally buy the terminology, because to me, defiance has an angry connotation, and the child isn’t angry. He’s just not. doing. it. Maybe it’s just blank stubbornness, abject cluelessness or sheer bloodymindedness.

It’s just sometimes . . . sometimes . . . the imp of the perverse sits on his shoulder and doesn’t let him shift gears, doesn’t let him transition to the next thing, doesn’t let him put his pencil down before he scribbles on his (completely awesome and well-executed) writing, doesn’t let him do the obvious and sensible thing, doesn’t let him give up and join the rest of the crew.

Maybe it’s a question of priorities. He has his number one priority, and that is whatever he is doing at that moment. And any other thing is second to his number one priority. And nothing overrides his number one priority.

It seems now that I was naive in thinking that school wouldn’t be a problem. I assumed that because he isn’t violent, aggressive, and has a great capacity for focus that school would be no problem. I thought coming from a family of educators would mean that school was just in him somehow. He has a natural love of learning, so school is the place for him, I always thought. Completely deluded, as it turns out.

I’d almost rather he struggled academically. That I could do something about. A few flashcards, a little extra practice playing games at home and we’d be back on track. But this is harder. There aren’t flashcards for compliance at home.

But there are opportunities for compliance at home, right? Sure. And I could be using each one to demand compliance at every moment at home. But that’s not my style. When we get in power struggles, I know that I lose when I win, because power struggles with a little kid mean, sure I come out on top, but look who I’ve beaten: my child. So I try and create a sort of obliqueness when our train seems to be heading for power struggle station. I divert the track so we don’t go down the tunnel, because a power struggle is his turf, he can stay engaged in it all day and isn’t afraid to let it get ugly. And I have to stay in it too, and come out on top. Believe me, we do go there, and I hold the Kind-but-firm-no-means-no line, but it’s messy. And I hate it. So when I can, I try and detour around. It takes effort, but we didn’t have to crawl through the screaming tunnel to get there. Hey, it doesn’t always work, but I’ll say this, I’m all for avoidance.

But when these times come up (and they do seem to go in waves) the thing that ultimately helps to dissolve the problem is . . . . well, love. Covering him in love, affirmation and attention, we can do it. Spending quality time wherever we can grab it, that works. Slowing down to his pace to see what’s important to him, that can work too. Somewhere in there, the problems start to ebb and we tug ourselves free, back into sure-footed-five-year-old waters again.

So that’s your solution, you ask? You sidestep a struggle and love the bejesus out of him? Yeah, I guess it is. Not much to go on, is it? All I got, though.

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Filed under Mistakes I have made, Not cool, Mommy, The outside world

Even more bathtime fun

I know. I didn’t think it possible either, but for a little while, the Fun Apartment got even more fun. It was like pioneer days fun.

Remember when I suggested that every family should have their bathtub in their kitchen? Here’s yet another reason why you should call your contractor now.

See this? This is a pipe that used to be under our kitchen sink. Not anymore, however. It developed a feature less than ideal in kitchen plumbing. In any plumbing, really.

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Awesome, right? Suddenly, no kitchen sink. So where we did we wash the dishes?

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You guessed it.

And you know what? The man of my dreams took it in stride. And he turned up after work with a replacement pipe! So vast is his skill set that he began to replace it all by himself. And so great is his confidence in me that he assured me that this job was so easy that even I could figure it out. He even used the moment when the trap tore apart in his hands, not as a cursing moment, but a teaching one! See, I now know what a trap is! It’s not some screen thingy hidden somewhere deep in the sink–it’s just the bendy part!

Of course, the trap coming apart in rusty flaky bits did put off the repairs for a little while. But less than 24 hours and a couple meals on paper plates later, there was this moment:

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Without any plumber bum, either! New pipes, new confidence, new experience washing dishes in the tub to help me appreciate the sink=win, win, and hey, sorta win!

(And yes, that light under the sink goes on when you open the cabinet door. It’s elves! Fun Apartment elves!)

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Filed under Home Ec, Living Small

Chemistry set

In my quest for DIY presents–maybe I should say DIM, since I’m the one making them–I started making lip balm to give away. It makes a great gift because people use it every day, and (hopefully) think of me fondly. And there’s another thing. There’s a secret about lip balm:

Are you ready? Sure?

Lip balm’s secret is . . . .

It’s really easy to make. I mean really easy. Look!

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Ta Da!

Between this and the bath scrubs, I began to see myself as head of a cottage beauty industry, making little kits with scrub, lip balm, soap, and those fizzy bath things (these are not yet in my repertoire, but how hard could it be, right?) and knitting little mitts for the shower. “I’m a genius! I could totally make this stuff! People love to buy crap like that!”

Then I realized yes, people do love to buy crap like that. And they already do.

It turns out most of the stuff I can make doesn’t really cost a lot to buy. Bread, body scrub, lip balm, knitted baby hats, laundry soap: Nobody goes broke buying that stuff. Lip balm, when it costs $1.49 at the drugstore. It’s kind of like how I can sort, fold and put away all my family’s laundry entirely in the dark. It’s a feat and a wonder, but not one that anyone is about to pay me to perform.

Until the day comes when I learn to make something like electric toothbrush replacement heads, I’ll console myself with the fact that it’s not about the thing. It’s about the making. And that’s the best part.

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Filed under Home Ec, I make things, The outside world

Well, it *did* look a lot like Christmas

So . . . Long time no blog, eh? I thought it’s provide a few glimpses into the holiday festivity preparations here at the Fun Apartment, and we can all pretend I posted them last month and we’re just now getting round to reading them, ok? Great! Communal suspension of disbelief when faced with illusion!

One project we carried on from last year: We made wrapping paper, using theĀ  craft foam stamp technique I learned at a crafternoon many moons ago. I feel really weird about wrapping paper in general and its inherent disposability, but I feel better about this kind.

In the North Pole, the elves probably wear clothes.

In the North Pole, the elves probably wear clothes.

They must make craft foam with adhesive backing. I didn't have that kind.

They must make craft foam with adhesive backing. I didn’t have that kind.

Here we also extended the holiday theme to our meals, because for some reason, all our meals require some context. Also, my willingness to perform loaves and fishes type miracles for healthy, or at least somewhat harmonious meals is well documented.

Man, do I get a lot of mileage out of these eggs.

Man, do I get a lot of mileage out of these eggs.

Oh, and I made these. They are my traditional “Hey, you’re a toddler, here’s your name, with bumps on it!” Gift. I couldn’t say why exactly, but these are remarkably satisfying to make.

She can't read. Yet.

She can’t read. Yet.

But he can. Good thing I have a LARGE collection of buttons.

But he can. Good thing I have a LARGE collection of buttons.

So there you have it! Some holiday cheer from the Fun Apartment! Not all of our gift ideas turned out so hot. You’ll see no photos of the laminated “Eat with your cousins!” placemats. And the body scrubs were a hit, but we’re running quite low on baby food jars and I’m reluctant to put the kids back on a diet of Stage 2 foods simply to help with the glass shortage. My own scrub is in a jar that still smells faintly of peanut butter, despite many washings. Actually, I might be imagining the peanut butter.

Hmm. I wonder if anyone else would enjoy peanut butter body scrub?

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Filed under Home Ec, I make things