Category Archives: Mistakes I have made

Sleep tight. . . .

Remember when we got the huge new bed? And remember when we were overrun with sea monkeys?

Well, those two things have kind of come together in a horrible way for us. It’s another infestation, but less friendly, more plague-y. That’s right: we found bed bugs.

Can you hear me screaming all the curse words, even from where you are? Good, that means I’m doing it right.

Go ahead and take a moment to glance around, itch everywhere, and then send us a text cancelling our next social engagement. It’s all right: everyone does. We grow accustomed to it.

How did we get them? Beats us. You can’t exactly interrogate the little m-f-ers, so it really could have been from anywhere. But where it is now is under the kids’ bed. (New bunk bed with all metal frame currently on requisition.)

So what did we do? Well, the exterminator suggested we go stay somewhere else for 14-20 days. This brought a fit of grim laughter. If we had somewhere else to live for that long, don’t you think we’d already be living there? And let me tell you, even very nice people aren’t eager to accept our kind of refugees into their homes.

Because the moving out option was not open to us until our summer staff retreat, and because the exterminator implied to Mr. Fun Apartment that waiting that long would constitute child abuse, we got instead the more complicated, larger pain in the ass option of “bag and bomb.” That essentially means that we have packed ALL of our stuff into large plastic bags. Then, the exterminator dropped what is hopefully a very lethal and effective pesticide into each bag and sealed them up.

But did not take them anywhere.

That’s right. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more fun, the Fun Apartment stuffed itself into (at last count) 57 awkward and somewhat fragile plastic bags. That number does not including the ones in the bathtub that hold the clothes we are allowed to wear over the next two weeks, and then take to the laundromat for some 40 minutes of fun in the hot, hot dryer.

And it’s two weeks of this, not counting the four extra days when the exterminator couldn’t be bothered to come by. So 18 days. Oh, and the extra 6 six days he suggested, while he tries to wrangle up the stragglers who did not deign to go inside the bags, but instead continue to wander about the apartment in search of luxury living spaces in Chelsea. (Location, location, location!)

And after 24 days of living like refugees in our own house, another fun time awaits us!: putting everything away again! It will be like moving in! Again! Except not into a new, bigger place. Into the exact same place.

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Climb every mountain.


In the interim, we’re camped out among the bags, all carefully stacked to the heavens. But we can start to see the bones of our old home reemerging. Today, after some rearranging, our little guy gasped with delight “We can have a couch?!” Upon receiving confirmation that, yes, we could indeed have a couch, just like regular people, he positively glowed.

And to show that we’ve been visited by not just any ordinary bedbugs, but ones with incredible senses of irony: I was counting the days until we can slice open the bags and move in again, and as I was tapping the days (10), a bed bug wandered across the calendar.

So, good thing we’re going through all this. It’s going swimmingly. Exactly as planned.

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The Big Sleep

A popular Fun Apartment joke is that some well-meaning friend or relative (Hi, Mom!) will threaten to send me some large item that regular people have in their house, like a dishwasher, a chainsaw, or a throw pillow and I will say “Are you kidding?? If we had one those, we would all have to sleep in it!”

Well, the joke is on me. We just got something so big that, yes, we have to sleep in it. Lucky for us, it’s a new bed. And it’s enormous. Enormous really doesn’t cover it. Our old comforter certainly didn’t.

i mean, seriously, look at this thing:

Bear sold separately.

Shopping for a bed is not something I had ever done before, because quite frankly, I’m crap as an adult, and mattress shopping is definitely filed under “things adults do.” See, I already had a perfectly good bed. The story is this: My mom was trying to lure my little sister, aged 4, into sleeping in her own room, so she bought her a big girl bed. That same sister is now pushing forty hard enough to break a wrist. So, that’s a recommendation for the Sleep Shop in Appleton, Wisconsin. You should probably check them out, if you are interested in mattress longevity.

But that box spring finally gave out, in the prime of its youth–possibly accelerated by the Fun Apartment’s Winter Youth Fitness Plan (i.e. jumping on the bed).

So we had to to mattress shopping. We trooped out, armed with our teddy bear and giant squid to test out beds. We camped out in mattress stores and engaged in a lay down, roll over, get up, lay down, roll over, get up protocol that, it must be said, makes one incredibly sleepy. In fact, when we actually chose one, I didn’t have the stamina to stick around and seal the deal. I needed some fresh air to wake myself up (and the saleswoman was tiring of playing twenty questions with the kids).

Seal the deal we did, but perhaps the soporific effect of mattress shopping may have marred our judgement. This bed is like a land mass–like Pangaea. Maybe it’s just the shift from double to queen, which is very striking. The Man of my Dreams and I are fairly compact, so a double bed had suited our needs. And I’d always thought of the Queen as somewhat diminutive–at least she looks that way in the photographs, but this realm must include the all former colonies and the erstwhile empire. Often I wake in the night  gasping, “I’m all by myself!” I panic, my arm flailing out to barely brush against the Mister. It’s also really tall. Sometimes I rather expect a tiny  dried pea to come rolling out of it. It’s so tall that one member of the family has requested a ladder so that he can join for bedtime reading. You know our philosophy of reading around here, so that ladder might just happen for him.

And are we sleeping proportionately better? Well, the Man of My Dreams is not the best of sleepers, but he reports a certain creature comfort need that is met by the “bedemoth.” And I am pretty much a top ranking amateur in the sleep department so sure, I’ll say yes. But I kinda miss the extra foot of floor space. After all, an extra foot at the Fun Apartment is well, a whole extra foot.

.

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List of demands

Once again, we have managed to work our way back east from our annual extended staff retreat. And as in years past, I am struck again by the following truths as we stumble in and dump bags of Midwestern bounty on the kitchen floor:
1. The Fun Apartment doesn’t actually seem that small. One would think that after getting our eyes all stretched out with all that space, the place would look more like a dollhouse when you peer in the window. But it never does. Instead it manages to look cozy. It looks like home. (But opening the refrigerator, that’s a whole other thing. That place really is tiny.)

2. Now that we’re home, even doing our normal stuff feels novel and exciting. Our neighborhood playground feels like wonderland! And the Y still has free babysitting!

3. After several weeks of Midwestern-style liberty, the kind where they can go play in outside by themselves, the boys seem to have grown up a lot in a relatively short span of time. During our visit, there were times when, while we were all still technically on the same property, they were as far as two city blocks away from me. So I am wondering how to use new long leash in a New York way. The other day, I applied it to the rather arcane and ridiculous process known as alternate side parking, during which one has to sit in the car for an hour and a half, in case the police or a streetsweeper come wandering by. But mostly one just sits in the car, going nowhere. You can imagine the non-appeal for kids. But can you also imagine how well walkie talkies work from the fourth floor down to the curb? Really, really well.

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Don’t worry, Mommy’s watching!

But, I have also been slowly realizing over the last few years that these boys are just not that keen on city life. Near-natives of the greatest city on earth? Meh. They’re over it. They want to move to the great white north.

Bite us, Big Apple.

So, the suggestion box has been stuffed to the gills with increasingly urgent requests to relocate. When queried further on this, they offered  the following somewhat surprising and specific elaborations on their dream house:

First son, first request: a dishwasher. (Love you, baby!)

Second son, first request: a pantry. “Oh! I know! A pantry! We could put things in it, like beer, cucumbers, anything!” (Really, what more does one need?)

Other ideas: a cherry orchard, with one tree for us, and one other tree for other people. A lake, but not an outhouse. If no lake, then a pool. And a treehouse that we could live in. After those demands are met maybe they could have their own bedrooms. Or even a bedroom that is not part of another room. Or just a treehouse.

Ah well, we live in hope. And–for now, anyway–in the Fun Apartment.

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Filed under Living Small, Mistakes I have made, The outside world

Busted.

This morning, I wondered vaguely why the kids were so quiet. This was, of course, foreshadowing, because my younger little angel came tiptoeing over, ready to shop his brother. “Mommy, come see what we are doing.”

I approached the bunk bed alcove and saw my older son guiltily stuffing his scissors under his brother’s pillow.

They were doing this, apparently: cutting a large hole in the net that houses our stuffed animal kingdom. It is a vast kingdom, ever wider since the Wild Kratts entered our lives, and now their home has been destroyed.

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Crime Scene. Do Not Enter.

As I gasped and loudly voiced my disapproval, these loving brothers immediately began to throw one another under the bus.

One: He did it.

Two: No, he did it.

One: He did it too. And it was his idea.

Two: I did it only a little. You did it a lot.

One: You did it a lot too.

Not sure what this will mean for their proposed future marriage.

And what to do? I’m more of a “consequence” parent than a “punishment” parent, but what the hell is a logical consequence for this? Is it that they have to strew all their homeless collection of stuffed animals throughout the fun apartment? That may be a logical consequence for them, but it is a cruel punishment for me.

I sent them to their beds (well, I can’t send them to their rooms) to reflect on their crimes, and to give myself a chance to try and parent my way out of this. After a few minutes of asking myself “What the blanking blankity blank were they thinking?” I came to the conclusion that kids just have incredibly poor judgement. And sometimes they just do stupid things for no reason.

I tried to plumb my own memories for similar offenses committed before I could be tried as an adult. And I did dredge one up. It still brings a shudder through me to remember the time I poked a nail in someone’s basketball to see what would happen. And then had to buy them a new basketball. So the Mr. and I sternly sent them to fetch their plastic wallets and extracted enough allowance to order a new home for all the stuffed animals now creating a vagrancy problem at the fun apartment. (I thought it was somewhat lenient of me not to ask them to pay for shipping, but we do have Amazon Prime, so . . . )

I’m not sure they felt the real wrath or have had their judgement improved. But pretty much everything else they have asked for today, from breakfast candy to screen time has been rejected. And we now have a scissors checkout policy.

Although I do agree to paint all of our toenails with glitter, because, really, who says no to that? I don’t know, but it isn’t me.

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Glitter Toes.

Sometimes these consequence things just seem messy to me, instead of the crisp, clean message of reparation they are meant to send. But in some ways, most of our life is like that–muddled but generally well-intentioned.

And I can’t say I blame them for being a little lacking in self-control, when the previous evening had involved a past-bedtime dance party at school. Great fun, but I could almost see the next day’s meltdowns written on their faces. Summer, come ye quickly, but give me strength!

 

 

 

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I’m just avoiding you

I have a new theory of parenting. (For those of you keeping score at home, this brings my sum total of parenting insights to: 2.) I think you are going to like this one, because subscribing to it requires very little effort on your part, and if you are anything like me, then that is exactly the kind of parenting theory you can get behind.

And it starts with nail clippers. Someone gave me a pair of infant nail clippers when I was pregnant and warned me that clipping the new baby’s nails would be the very worst part of my parenting experience (apparently, this person had a child who had not yet hit the dreaded threes, or she probably would have given me a bottle of whiskey instead to prepare me for the path ahead.)

So I took the nail clippers with some trepidation and gave them a place of honor among the baby’s stuff carefully arrayed in the soon-to-be-nursery (that’s right, we had a house then. It had rooms. I miss rooms.) and when the baby finally arrived and it took three of us to bathe, diaper, and dress him, I glimpsed the dreaded clippers and thought “Oh no! Not that, too! I can’t face it! I’m not ready!”

So I just didn’t face it. His nails never got particularly long, he didn’t cover himself in scratches. I figured his toenails would get long enough to resemble some hex from the Half Blood Prince, but they just seemed to never grow very much.

“Hmm,” I thought. “Well, if they get really long, I’ll give it a go, but since everything seems fine right now, I’ll just put these torture clippers away.” And I probably put them right next to the onion goggles.

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“Some have two feet and some have four. Some have six feet and some have more.”

And our second appeared also to have no real need to have anything clipped. Maybe they have some sort of non-nail-growing gene, I shrugged. And probably never thought about it again. Until this weekend, when I watched my older son wander over to my dresser, pick up my nail clippers and trim his own nails.

Avoidance, people. It works. 

I should go back in time and avoid potty training! I’m sure they would have picked it up on their own by now. We should just stop putting so much damn work into this.

Last week, at one of my various school pick-ups, I was eavesdropping on another mom tear out her hair over her kids and their insistence on singing that pop anthem “Shut up and Dance” (With me! Go ahead, sing along at home!) Apparently, use of the phrase “shut up” is verboten in their household and she is driving herself bonkers trying to keep her kids from singing this song. (Based on my own experience, it is impossible to remove this song from one’s head without surgery) But, she has tried to push a kid-friendly version of “Get up and dance” on them to no avail. And as she bemoaned this lack of success, I thought, “I don’t think I would go to the mattresses over this.” Because, once you go there, you have to pitch a tent and live there under your flag. Until the last fallen warrior is carried away.

And eventually, she’ll look back at the Battle of Walk-the-Moon. But I bet next time, she is going to embrace avoidance parenting.

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Workshoppy

Now that the holiday craziness is over, I have time to write everything I have been thinking about holiday craziness. So, guess what happened here at the Fun Apartment in Decmber? It was projects! A. Lot. of Projects! We were very busy in Santa’s Sweatshop.

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I have no idea why your hammer smells minty. I think you are imagining things.

For instance, there are the Christmas cookies. The fourteen kinds I made this December, and then forbade my household to eat. And now I have lots of leftover, slightly stale cookies. That was bad planning on my part, especially for my new January theme: “cleanliness is next to Momliness.”

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White chocolate. Peanut butter. Marshmallows. Grandma was right.

But Midwesterners often express their love through butter. And one thing I love about the holidays, among the bajazillion other things I love about the holidays, is that it is one thousand percent acceptable to invite people over and ply them with cookies and drinks and call it dinner! Cheers!


There is also this job I invented for myself: making embroidered felt ornaments for everyone. I love making them, but I have to make rather a lot, and I am running out of holiday themed items that can be reproduced in felt. Somehow I have a sad feeling that next year’s ornaments will be a mini felt Christmas potholder and roll of scotch tape. (Suggestions gleefully accepted!)

And let’s not forget these dudes. Apparently all the dinosaurs at the Fun Apartment never heard about that whole K/T barrier business. Or I am running some sort of dinosaur safe house in the Mesozoic extinction level event witness protection program.

Also, if I ever hear the words “shutter” and “fly” together, I will start to throw knives around.

But, really, I love all the doing. Because, for us, or well me at any rate, Christmas is just a lot of projects! In fact, the lads and I spent most of Christmas Eve engaged in one sort of holiday craft or another, largely because I needed them to be occupied while I was madly embroidering, and because the YMCA insisted that I spend the day with the boys, rather than dumping them in childcare while I went to kickboxing. But it was fun, because, well, they’re my kids after all, so they love complicated projects.

Because of this tremendous project list, however, I have very little energy to disguise my handwriting to fake correspondence from Elf on the Shelf. I wish he were back in Africa. One wise woman told me recently, “Don’t you know? All magical creatures type!” She’s right. They do (now).

However, we encountered one major holiday problem here at the Fun Apartment: the deplorable lack of good hiding places for presents. In a normal household, people just hide their presents in some secret, out-of-the-way spot. But at the Fun Apartment, those secret out-of-the-way spots were colonized long ago by summer clothes or sea monkeys and therefore cannot possibly accommodate a large Lego set. Mommy had to get creative. Sometimes, I had to rely on the fact that they are not overly curious about the piles of random crap err detritus that seem to form all over the place without any encouragement from me and at a rate that would alarm the CDC. So, I just arranged these piles more artfully around holiday gifts shrouded in many layers of plastic shopping bags. I’m a little discouraged to say that this approach worked pretty well. Perhaps they are a little too accustomed to living cheek by jowl with those random piles. But I spent the whole week leading up to Christmas cringing inside whenever the boys gasped or said “Mommy! Look!” Luckily, though, none  of my stash houses were raided.

But this was also a problem when, at 11:30 on Christmas morning, my older son looked at his payload curiously. “Hey!” he said, poking through his Legos and whiskey for a gift he had already glimpsed bringing it home from school (Damn you Scholastic and your ridiculous packaging, too !) “Where’s my weather station?”

I stopped mid-coffee swig. I had hidden the weather station, and its co-presents, the oft-requested remote control monster trucks, somewhere so secret that I had forgotten its location entirely. But, of course, I couldn’t exactly go on a room to- um, well, a room search anyway, because then I would be revealing all my hiding places and expressly destroying my children’s belief in Santa.

Happily, the lad seemed to accept my snorting coffee out of my nose as an answer to this query, and I was able at last to locate these stray items by surreptitiously searching the one cupboard that I can reach without a ladder. And Santa trotted them at the next Christmas celebration we attended (We had five. Check the Shutterfly calendar: It’s a big family.)

Actually, one of my favorite holiday moments was sitting at Fika with a cup of coffee and a candy cane while I wrote out my holiday cards. Never mind that this cozy “holiday” moment happened on January 6. It still had that feel.

And, your holiday card is (finally) in the mail!

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Filed under Home Ec, I make things, Living Small, Mistakes I have made

No news is good news

I hope you all haven’t been waiting with bated breath for a new post because, well unless you can hold your breath for something like four weeks, you’d be dead and I can’t have that on my conscience.

But here’s the reason for the wait, unless you are still feeling lightheaded from oxygen deprivation: there has not been an overwhelming amount of craziness to write about. The Fun Apartment hasn’t felt like the walls were closing in. The kids don’t seem to be spinning uncontrollably toward any developmental abysses. The man of my dreams still can’t manage to put his shoes away, but as we have recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary (YAY!) that is sort of an old song. The cat is looking a bit bony, but it might just be all the shedding.

So, a lull. Domestic bliss. I shall relax into it.

But of course, I shall have to hurry up and relax because, as my soon-to-be 2nd grader reliably informs me, it’s all going to go cuckoo bananas pear-shaped in 10 days time. Summer, my friends, comes for us all, at least it did last year. And summer has very few outside routines.

Is that a good thing, yeah, sorta. I have always liked to give the lads lots of unscheduled time. That way, they can get bored and find themselves something to do, which I have found is a skill one often needs later in life.

But without routines, a lot of things seem to slip through the cracks. That’s when I look at el meltdowno and think “wait, did I feed you any lunch? Oops, here have some . . . uh, let me see . . . peanut butter on a cheese stick?”

Maybe I’m the one who has trouble with transitions.

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