Tag Archives: kids

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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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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Anniversary musings

The Man of My Dreams and I recently celebrated our anniversary (Yay, right!?!?) We usually mark the occasion my making the meal we had at our wedding, which (I’m pretty sure) was vegetarian lasagna and red velvet cake. There were roses and wine, as well. And I didn’t cut my finger off making the lasagna this year, so that was another reason to celebrate!


This auspicious event has spawned rather a lot of side conversations about weddings, marriage, and relationships in general. It turns out that these lads have picked up some interesting ideas about how these things work. Here are some actual conversations to give you some insight into their crazy little minds.

Little: I am going to have this kind of cake (i.e. red velvet) at my wedding.

Me: Good choice.

Little: It’s going to be at the beach.

Me: Great! That sounds like fun!

Little: You won’t be there.

Me: Why not?

Little: You’ll be dead.

 

Little: What if you wear a silver dress?

Me: Fine. People usually wear white dresses, but you can wear whatever you want.

Little: Even a golden dress?

Me: Yup. Whatever you want.

Little: I’m going to wear a ninja suit.

 

Big: I know, I can save someone!

Me: Umm. . .  what?

Big: I can save someone from danger! And then they will want to marry me!

Me: . . .

Big: That way I don’t have to ask them. They will just know to marry me.

 

Little: I want to marry my brother.

Big: You can’t marry me. The police will come and take us to jail.

Little: I don’t care. You can wear the dress. I will wear the ninja suit. Do you have a ring?

(I sure would like to be there when my sons get married. To each other. At the beach. Too bad I’ll be dead. . . )

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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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Joy, and Stuff

You guys know we live in a tiny apartment, right?  Perhaps you’ve also gathered that there are, at last count,  four of us in here–and two of us are kids!

And of course, all of us have stuff. Some of that stuff is toys. And clothes. And food. And books. And wine. So, we have the essentials. And there’s also an extra lampshade, with no lamp–don’t ask. And a sewing machine, giant volcano, tin can robot, postage scale, a basket full of rocks, a cordless drill, and several thousand of the Mister’s random bags of crap.

As you might imagine, the Fun Apartment can feel pretty crowded. Keeping a clear path  requires constant vigilance and many executive decisions made while everyone else is at school or work. (And no, I haven’t seen your bag with the old lock parts in it. Stop asking.)

I’ve written before about how I feel constant pressure to purge and unclutter.* So, it was inevitable, I suppose, that I would end up writing about Marie Kondo and her “life-changing” magic.

Have I read the book? Well, no, not the whole thing. But it is in the bathroom, and I’ve flipped through it. And yes, parts of it make plenty of sense to me. But not all the parts. “One theme underlying my method of tidying is transforming the home into a sacred space, a power spot filled with pure energy.”**  Yeah, I really can’t see that happening around here.

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Good thing we have shelves.

 

So we’re not totally converting to this new religion. But, like I said, it takes constant vigilance to keep the producers of Hoarders at bay. So I thought we’d just try to do some magic tidying and see how that worked out for us.

I’m not sure why I chose to take my organizational stand in the bathroom, with the wash cloths. But there they were: a bin overflowing with washcloths. Some of you may remember this pile of washcloths as the sea monkey mass grave. “Perhaps I could tidy those,” I suggested to myself. But there were a lot of them and rearranging them in the bin didn’t really produce the promised life-changing magic. So, I asked the man of my dreams about getting some of those tall odd-shaped drawers to curb the washcloths.*** But instead of agreeing to drawers, he suggested we just go through the washcloths and get rid of a bunch, until we came to a manageable quantity. Now, I am not one to quash the Mister’s purging urge, as he is only seized by this urge . . . Umm is there a word that means “every five years”? Quintennially? Maybe he has been reading in the bathroom, as well. Anyway, we dutifully went through our washcloth collection and decluttered. We were joining the choir. We were one step closer to a home filled with “pure energy.”

At least, we were, until the kids came down with pink eye.

(I will pause here so you can reassure yourselves that your eyes are not really itchy, but perhaps you should wipe down your screened devices anyway.)

That’s right, we suddenly found that what we needed were washcloths. Lots. Of Washcloths. Approximately the same number we had just unloaded. And we needed them right away. Suddenly, that decluttering urge seemed more like hubris or idiocy.

So we had not nearly enough washcloths to gt us through the pink eye. But we did have protective eye gear! A few years ago, some well-intentioned soul gave me a pair of goggles to wear while chopping onions, to prevent one from crying. While I have cried in the kitchen, it is usually for reasons pertaining to the presence of a large mountain of dishes and the absence of a dishwasher. I didn’t really need the goggles, but we held on to them, because well, I guess they just became part of the landscape. Maybe they’d be useful someday?

And sure enough: their time came! When your kid has pink eye and isn’t allowed to touch his eyes, it turns out that onion chopping goggles are exactly what you need. Pretty smart holding on to them all this time, wasn’t I?

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Safety first.

I’m sure that this whole life-changing magic is great for a lot of people. It’s probably perfect for real grown-ups, people better at adulting. But it seems like it’s not for us. Pink eye has taught me that I am not all that interested in having a home full of pure energy.  I’d rather have a home full of people I love, the things we need, the things we love, and a pair of onion chopping goggles.

Sure, I’ll still man the guns at clean-up time, but it turns out I actually like living with a bunch of interesting, useful stuff. Would it change my life to simply toss out a bunch of this stuff? Sure, but not necessarily for the better. Here at the Fun Apartment, life is magical enough.

*Martha Stewart’s last email was downright bossy about it: “Eliminate clutter.” Anytime a subject line includes the word “eliminate,” it just gives off a sinister tone.I begin to think about the clutter taking its family, assuming a new identity, and going into hiding until the reign of terror has ended.

**p. 161. I can’t make this stuff up.

***I do realize that her method is not to buy more storage space (That is the job of the Container Store’s marketing department) but I thought even just trying to wrangle some of the chaos into tidiness might help with the magic and pure energy business.

 

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Containment 

With all of the holiday bounty comes another uniquely Fun Apartment moment: finding places to actually put away the new toys, all of which seem to be enormously larger than last year’s toys.

So, first comes the purge. I have been sneaking old stuff out of the fun apartment all week (hey, I’m basically unsupervised all day, what did they think was going to happen?) I have a sort of de-cluttering quirk that allows me to give away basically anything we own, as long as I know it is going to a good home. (The flip-side of this quirk is that I have a lot of stuff we are hanging onto because I just know there is a good home for it out there somewhere. Wow, do I hope my knocked up sister has a boy, because that would clear out half of our basement storage closet in a single shipment!)

Because things can really pile up around here. And I seem to be the only one who raises even one eyebrow at the piles. Sure, we live in a small place, there’s going to be stuff around, but sometimes a girl might want to see some flat unoccupied space, like a table top, without waiting for the accompanying unicorn or blood moon. We heard this study on the radio a few days ago (my bit is at the end) and I was basically jumping up and down pointing at the radio, while the man of my dreams shrugged charmingly at me. But science has proven: I am being neuro-chemically altered–in fact, poisoned!–by all this crap around here! Thank you Science! I am vindicated! Now, I have to go to the Salvation Army carrying these large plastic bags. And, no, I don’t know what happened to your magazines from 1998. Or Thomas the &*$#ing Tank Engine, but whatever happened to him, I’m sure he totally had it coming.

After the purge, more bins. Today I spent $35 on Lego storage. And I thought I was the one getting the bargain. I admit, I have a complicated relationship with this temple of organizational commerce. But it is the only place where I could remotely be considered a pop star. The clerk seemed to have his world-view shaken when I asked for “under-couch” storage bins. “Santa brought me several Lego storage problems,” I explained.

“Lego storage opportunities,” he corrected. They should give that guy a raise.

That’s what we have at the fun apartment: opportunities. Lots of opportunities.

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Wonder Land

Sometimes I wonder why we live in New York City. To be fair, I am not alone in asking this. The boys have each requested a change of venue recently. One would like to move to “a rural community because I like silos.” The other alternates between wanting to live with various grandparents and hoping we could all live in the pretend tree house at the playground. And I think my mom never stops asking herself what the $&@% we are doing here.

As a native Midwesterner, I have spent most of my time here perfectly pleased with my surroundings. After September 11, I swore I would have to be cut out of the city with a knife and fork. But then we moved to Philadelphia, so that shows how much I know about it. (Fortune teller: another career path closed to me)

But moving back to New York with my little brood into our cozy den, the city just seems hard sometimes. There’s a lot of schlepping. There are all kinds of stores you can’t go in because the stroller won’t fit. There are a lot of unpleasantly scented elevators to get to certain death on the subway platforms. There’s lots of dog poop. There’s lots of milk to be lugged up to the fourth floor. There’s just a lot of hassle sometimes.

But sometimes, sometimes, the city gives you presents: perfect days just for you. Like the time some TV network flooded an entire section of Chelsea market and filled it with crocodiles to promote some uh . . . oh who the hell knows what they were promoting! The point is, there were crocodiles that the boys could visit at what is effectively our neighborhood grocery store! Real! Live! Crocodiles!

And yesterday, just as sort of an offhand fluke thing, we went to Wonderland! I know, I know, it is a Target Wonderland, but that doesn’t keep it from being awesome! (And free). And it just opened that day, so not very many people know how fun it is. Tomorrow, the entire city will be there and never leave  so it will become one of those things that would be amazing, except you can’t see it because there are too many people. (I’m looking at you, High Line) But yesterday, it was amazing and special. Yes, it was wretched excess. But it was wretched excess on a scale that only New York seems to manage effortlessly.

See, this is how New York gets you: once in a while you get the amazing and special things that feel both like they are just for you and that you are part of some larger beating heart. Or a life size Lego pirate ship with a giant ball pit.

Ball! Pit!

 Maybe they have these special things where you live, too. Embrace them! I think Philadelphia has them sometimes. (But I refuse to believe that, despite what one of the Mister’s former coworkers swears, Philadelphia has waiters with tuxedos and trays loaded with glasses of wine roaming the city. That can’t possible happen, right? . . . Right?)

So yesterday was a day when I knew exactly why we live (and love it) here!

We’re home. Fist Bump.

Ho Ho Hulk!

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