Monthly Archives: May 2014

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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Good night, sweet prince

The Fun Apartment is technically a one bedroom apartment. And for a one bedroom apartment, it’s actually surprisingly (New Yorkly) roomy. But when you cram four people in, well, roomy reaches the very outer edges of its descriptiveness. Think of that scene from Star Wars where the walls of the garbage room start to close in. It’s more like that.

Here’s the thing about the bedroom. It does have a door, but it also has windows. Not just a window to the outside world, but a window like this:

20140501-203848.jpg

This brings light, that elusive quality so strangely quantifiable in New York City real estate, into the rest of the apartment. But in practice, it’s not really like having a door or a bedROOM so much as having a part of the apartment where you put your bed, that happens to be rather further away from the kitchen.

And we’re the lucky ones. The boys just have a kind of alcove with a curtain. They sleep 18 inches apart. And you know, for a long time, it worked fine. But when it’s bedtime, it’s not just bedtime in the boys’ alcove. It’s bedtime everywhere. After wrestling them into their pjs, and reading a 10 inch high stack of books that would make a librarian weep with pride, we begin the long day’s journey into well, you know. We turn off all the lights. We snuggle.* We kiss them good night. We tuck them in. And then, we wait.

And guess what? We can’t just go in the other room and be grown ups again! We can’t go to the kitchen and finish the dishes, because, well, that’s actually in the same room. We can’t go into our room and watch tv, because there’s a giant hole in our wall, so the kids would actually be watching tv with us. So we sit in the dark, whispering. And waiting.

Now you may be saying to yourselves: That’s nuts. Just go to the kitchen and finish the dishes. Just watch tv. You’re grown ups, ferchrissakes.

And this I ask you in return: Just how late do you want these children to be awake? I need them asleep as fast as is legally possible.

Hence, we wait and whisper in a dark apartment. All those people who can make phone calls after their kids are in bed, I envy them. Here, we maintain radio silence until about 9:30. And by then, I’m not really coherent anyway, so I don’t actually call anyone.

The kindergartener is so worn out from school that he rarely needs more than to be pushed over into his bed. Our Little, however, is now three (pray for me) and is on the fuzzy line of not exactly needing a nap. If he doesn’t have one, he’s like an angry drunk come dinner time. If he does have one, he’s playing jump rope in his crib at 10 pm. (And by extension, we are kinda stuck sitting in the dark whispering. Lucky us.)

Here’s one miraculous thing: they don’t ever try and get out of bed until morning. I realize that by telling you this, I am jinxing myself and will have this problem starting tomorrow night and continuing through high school, but it really is a miracle. I mean, we are about 15 feet from them. But they stay in bed. And they don’t talk.

Now that it is spring-ish and we have many more ways (beyond the jumping on the bed workouts of the long cold winter) to burn off energy, it is a little easier to get the little guy to sleep. And we can go back to being grown ups — sometimes with the lights on, even! At times, though it is tempting to just go to bed ourselves. I challenge any of you to sit in a silent dark apartment after a draining day and not feel slightly fuzzy. Sometimes the man of my dreams emerges from the bedtime snuggle after a suspiciously long time, looking like the mattress attacked him.

Also, look what sitting in the dark with an iPad has done for the blogging! This post is so long that splashdown may have occurred while I was writing it. Yippee, now I can do the dishes.

*Some nights, all four of us are attempting to snuggle in the tiny alcove and that is like some sort of bizarre barrel of monkeys hostage situation.

 

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