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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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Thank You

I know you all have nothing better to do than read my blog today. Nobody is tearing apart their kitchens or anything. Nobody is watching the Packer game. So here I am with a quick word.

(After a month of total radio silence)

After the recent spate of horrible news across the globe, both close to home and far from it, I felt like having a blog in which I alternately moan and crow wildly about my life and family was terribly fatuous. 

So let me say this: I am fantastically lucky! I have a cosy place to live, quirky boys of all ages to adore, an enormous city full of friends, a family that has (mostly) stopped asking when we are going to move, an enviable degree of health and safety, the audacity to turn down a perfectly good job, and a sunny disposition. And a blog. I have a blog, to keep me out of jail.

   

Another year, another wonky tree

 
Is there stuff I want? Sure. 

1. Equity in education

2. A dishwasher

But I can wait for that stuff. I’m confident, or at least hopeful, that those things will come in time. Until then, it is a privilege to lead the life I lead, and I will do my best to be worthy of it.

***

Also, it is amazing to climb into a bed with clean sheets fresh from the laundry! Maybe I should try washing ours more than every few mon–what’s that? Still on the air? Oops! Err forget that last! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Dark days

I had one of those days. The “they might come to take my kids away, and I wouldn’t be sorry. In fact, I would be willing to drop them off” days.  The “I turned forty but the kids ate what career I had and I still don’t seem to be getting paid, but I’m working all the damn time” days. 

I gave myself a time out. In the hallway. There may have been wine involved.

Later, when the man of my dreams showed up to rescue me, he did it with flowers and whiskey. Swoon.

Is this a cry for help? I don’t think so, but I could do without those kind of days. 

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Lost.

Yesterday we lost one of the Fun Apartment’s most celebrated residents. My beloved cat has died of what my older son calls “kidnap failure.” My heart is heavy.

Gollum was eighteen years old. As a kitten, he was runty, scruffy, with his his face sort of squashed. He looked like a fruit bat. But he was my fruit bat.

He moved with me from the mean streets of Minneapolis to Brooklyn. In the moving van, he paced across the dashboard, eventually choosing to drape himself across the steering column. And in Brooklyn, we joined a crowd of other midwesterners and their cats. We called ourselves “Little Milwaukee.” I think in a way we were taking care of the cats as practice for adulthood, like those seventh grade health classes where you get a bag of flour and pretend it’s a baby. (To be fair, some of the others might actually have been proper adults. But I wasn’t.)

Gollum was more like a puppy than a cat. He greeted all visitors at the door. He had no manners, and knew how to assert himself. His relentless sense of playfulness was the stuff of legend. My sainted roommate was home more than I was and Gollum’s gleeful harassment drove her completely bonkers. Also, his neutering at an early age seemed to have no effect on his sexuality. Visitors knew not to wear long sleeve shirts if they wanted their forearms unmolested. And he did with such enthusiasm that those who were not chosen for a thorough forearm humping somehow felt slighted.

And let’s get something straight: This cat was a genius. A really stupid genius. He could solve amazingly complex toy-acqusition problems, but he could never remember that my roommate’s cat did not want to have sex with him. Her life with him was one long series of obscene proposals. His brain was on a short loop.

Happily, the Man of My Dreams was compatible with Gollum, or this whole Fun Apartmenty thing probably wouldn’t have happened. And, when the inevitable kids came, he took that on the chin as well. When you are pregnant, people talk in uncomfortable, hushed tones about what happens if your cat and your baby are not compatible. Happily, we didn’t face that situation. If we had, I know I probably would have made the right decision, but I would have thought long and hard about who was already potty-trained and who wasn’t. Initially terrified of our oldest son–a pixie-like newborn pinioned in his carseat, Gollum eventually assured me that he was totally cool with all the sitting on the couch we were doing, even if it involved the little guy. By the time our second son showed up, Gollum eagerly leapt to the old nursing spot on the couch, purring impatiently.

And he even came to love the Fun Apartment. It coincided with his later years and he has thoroughly carved out his turf. He made it clear that the spot underneath the head of our bed was totally off limits for storage. He was sociable enough and met the challenge of two pestering, curious boys with agreeable resignation. The older boy had just taught himself to pick up the cat. He came to me in the kitchen, grinning with triumph, with Gollum draped over his arm like a rope.

Gollum was also terribly serious about bedtime. When he thought it was time for me to retire, he was fairly insistent. He would lay on my chest purring each night. There are worse ways to fall asleep, people.

I think in some ways, this cat was me: enthusiastic, guileless and a little bit dim. And now, without him, I won’t know to go to bed. I won’t know how to let go of the day, petting his sleek, seal-like head. I hardly feel like myself without him.

But I still have to move through the day. There are all the usual minor miracles to perform. I was talking with a friend who had recently lost someone (a person, not a cat, but grief is grief) and we discussed how, despite the blackened insides, we have to carry the rainbows and spread the glitter. My boys were sad, but I can’t realistically expect a four and a six year old to be sad through playdates, potluck suppers, and preschool graduations. So I grieve in tiny moments to myself, before I pick up the rainbow again. (Also, if you are going to cry in the shower stall at the Y, you should use the accessibility stall with the bench in it.)

And, when I open the apartment door, I allow myself to pretend that Gollum’s just about to greet us.

I’ll let the ghost walk a little longer. I need the company.

*******

(Unprecedented! The Mister, who shuns all social media, except for lurking on my accounts, has also remarked on the lovableness and loss of our little panther.)

And to think, I had been drafting a post about how not much has been going on around here. My literary friends will recognize the  foreshadowing.

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A Guest Obituary

The Fun Apartment has just lost some of its fun-ness. About two pounds of handsome, black, furry fun. At age 18, our cat Gollum has reached the end of his life.

(This, by the way, is a post not from Laura but a guest post from the ‘Man of Her Dreams’.) I met Gollum shortly after meeting Laura, back when he was still quite young and frisky. Many of Laura’s friends thought of him as having a devilish streak. But I knew he was a sweetheart of a cat – albeit one very willing to engage others with his teeth and claws. From the get-go, Gollum and I got along. Good thing too. Who knows where we’d be today if I hadn’t earned his approval. In my experience, he rarely made for much of a ruckus unless provoked.

Like at the vet’s office. Laura recalled his first visit to the vet. Getting him neutered. She dropped him off in the morning to get picked up later on. When she called in midday to make sure all was well, the receptionist repeated his name: “Gollum? Gollum? Oh yes, the feisty one!” When Laura went to retrieve him, a first nurse and then a second nurse couldn’t get him out of his cage. Giving up, they invited Laura to the back to try. On the way toward the back, she heard a cat yowling like nothing before. When he saw her, he gave her a little meow as if to say, “O, thank god – let’s get out of here.”

That was Minneapolis. From there, he gamely made the trek to New York with Laura in the cab of a U-haul. Four years later, we took him in cat carrier on a Septa train bound for Philadelphia. Back in those quieter days of ours, Gollum was the center of our lives. And then life changed dramatically for all of us with the arrival of Big. The news struck Gollum the moment we returned from the hospital. I’m not sure if it was the sight or the smells, but it took him mere seconds to realize there was a new creature in the house – tiny like him. Gollum tore upstairs like a banshee, cautiously coming back down only hours later to start sniffing around. After that, he didn’t make too much fuss. As Laura would say, he was a beta cat – one who acceded readily enough to second place. And then third. It was mere months after Little was born that he drove back with us to New York where he has been an integral part of the Fun Apartment. And he earned new admiration from us with how he withstood a good deal of grief from a couple of toddlers.

Perhaps right after Big arrived, it seemed as if Gollum had instantly lost weight. And as our boys grew ever larger, he seemed ever lighter. By the end, he felt lighter than air. But it wasn’t just relative. In point of fact, he had thinned down considerably. He had been eating less. And drinking more and more. Although we had been pretty well oblivious, these were symptoms of his kidneys failing. And then in the last week or so, it went from General-Signs-of-Aging to Something-is-Really-Wrong. Bad enough that Laura opted to subject him to a vet for a first time in a dozen years.

Toward the end, Gollum had faded some on several fronts – not just the thinning out. Or that he had lost his strength and liveliness. In these last four years here at the Fun Apartment, he would hunker down underneath our bed for large swaths of the day. There, he could safely stay out of reach of our other little fellows romping about. But he would reliably come out at certain times. Like any good pet, he would come out to greet us when we got home. For much of our days here, if he hadn’t raced me to the bathroom in the morning, then he’d come trotting over at the sound of the tub faucet squeaking on. Jumping into the tub with the tap now running, he would slurp down as much fresh water as he could get. But his favorite part of the day was at night. Even before the kids came along and definitely afterwards, he relished the time that Laura would settle in for bedtime reading. With the boys sound asleep, Gollum would have us to himself. He would stand on her lap, or maybe between us, alternately stepping and ‘kneading’ with each paw. We thought of it as his ‘tucking us in.’ Purring away, he would demand some attention, and we would gladly give it. Especially when I think of the mere fur and bones he had wasted down to, I marvel at how such a little creature could be such a huge repository for love. He is sorely missed.

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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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Wild joy indeed

Today at Trader Joe’s, gazing blankly out the window as I was waiting in line, I eventually realized that the hazy quality of the light outdoors was not just some skyscraper shadow leaning over or an alien craft landing. Nope. It was rain. Amount of rain bucketing down from the sky: fathoms. Amount of rain gear we had with us: zero. Number of strollers I had the foresight to bring with us: you guessed it. Zero.

As I raked my eyes back toward the cart to see how much trouble I was in, I caught sight of one of the greeting cards lining the wall near the customer herding pens. It showed children dressed in bright colored clothing gambling I the grass. “Oh the wild joys of living!” It read across the top.

I doubt Robert Browning ever had to drag two overstuffed paper bags and two unhurried little boys home in the rain from Trader Joe’s. If he had had to perform such miracles, his time to write 19 stanzas of opaque poetry would have been somewhat more limited. Now that I have done it, “wild joys” is not a phrase I find particularly applicable to the task.

As we rowed home, though, I found it useful to keep muttering it to myself. As the paper bags began to disintegrate in my hands, “oh the wild $&@/&/$ing joys of living” I told myself. And again as I watched the boys soak their feet gleefully wading through filthy puddles, “oh! The wild joys of living.” Perhaps the power of words lies not in their content, but their intent.

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