Tag Archives: the fun apartment

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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Lots of love. I mean, LOTS.

Valentine’s Day kind of caught me off guard this year. Maybe it was the way it happened two days early. The school district used some sleight of hand to slip in an extra week off. In the middle of February. (Kid reaction: Yay! Parent reaction: Eek! What are you kids doing here? Shouldn’t you be in school? Learning?)

Anyway because of this smoke and mirrors break, I had to scramble to pull some heart-y type stuff together in time for school Valentine’s Day parties on Friday. Unfortunately, other, smarter parents with better calendar management skills had beaten me to the drugstore. So I trolled around for other ideas. (Thanks, Popsugar! I was almost starting to feel comfortable with my own inadequacy until you came along!)

And in my inadequate scramble, scrolling through 762 Valentine card ideas, I began to feel like Valentine’s Day is a little creepy. I mean, do we really want elementary school kids declaring their undying love for everyone in their class, like I did at parties in my twenties? (“I just feel so close to you guys right now. I love you all! Let’s hug! And have more wine!”) I’d be happy if we didn’t push the idea of romantic love on these kids until . . . well, I don’t actually know when I’ll be ready for that to happen. Grad school, maybe?

Anyway, this whole holiday just seems kinda creepy when you put it in a kid context, doesn’t it? Around the 538th glow stick card, declaring how another kids lights up my kid’s life, I wanted to shower, and then give the kids a bath. And I don’t think my seven year old can call all the people who gave him candy hearts emblazoned with “Call me!” until he get a phone. In middle school, if he’s lucky.

“This is kind of inappropriate,” I thought to myself. And then I thought of several, even more wildly inappropriate Valentine messages that would definitely call for my removal from the PTA’s sucker list. Now my mind is full of off-color glow stick innuendo and if either kid comes home with bubbles in their Valentine haul, I am going to need to be ventilated to stop giggling and snorting. (At least, that’s how the people at Party City revived me, with their balloon tanks.)

But somehow, I did convince myself to try and find some simple valentines that would not require hours of assembly, cost the Hope Diamond, or make my kids seem weird. And they had to come in some combination that adds up to 30.

And we managed to tape a lot of construction paper* hearts to happy-face pencils, without undue discord on the marital front, because that would really go against the spirit of the thing,wouldn’t it? So I did it while the Mister was working late and I made the kids write all the names. For the little guy, this was sort of the equivalent of writing a volume  of Game of Thrones. But he managed it, so maybe he’ll be a wildly successful sci-fi/fantasy novelist someday. That’s something to look forward to!

And, upon awaking on actual Valentine’s Day, two boys who are all knees and elbows slipped into our bed. They had noticed the boxes of candy hearts on the table, but we’re worried that I didn’t have any Valentines, because there were no candy hearts at my place. It’s true, those clever other parents had already cleared the drugstore shelves of my beloved sweet-tart hearts, so I figured that I would just steal the white ones from their candy heart boxes and call it a day.

“Don’t worry,” I assured them. “I’m sure Papa has a great big fancy surprise Valentine for me.” The boys accepted this answer, but the Man of My Dreams choked somewhat hesitantly before he went on with his pretend snoring. Ah, marriage.

Maybe my gift is that he will remember to wipe down the countertops after he does the dishes. I will keep my fingers crossed!

In the meantime, a cozy day in the cozy Fun Apartment seems lovey-dovey enough for me. And I hope that feeling lasts all the way through the completely made-up winter break holiday.

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I wear my heart on a stick.

*Why is it called construction paper? Only one of the three little pigs would be stupid enough to build a house out of it!

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Fun Apartment Fitness Plan

I got a stack of “how to be hot . . . err healthy” magazines at the Y, which was kind of awesome. But after reading nothing but Self, Shape, and Women’s Health magazines, a girl could be forgiven for thinking that she’s not doing enough to keep her smoking hot self in good shape. So I developed this Fun Apartment Fitness Plan to help all the other moms in tiny apartments on track to set a PR (it only took me two months to figure out they meant parenting record, not public relations.)

Morning: wake up early to the relaxing tones of shrieking children fighting over old Halloween candy and dumping out bins of Legos. Take a minute to visualize throttling them with their own licorice. Give yourself a good long hamstring stretch as you reach down to clear a path wide enough to reach them. Then drop into a squat to scoop one of them up and carry them away from the battlefield. (Lift with the legs, keeping the knees behind the toes–remember, form is important!)

Incorporate some yoga into your morning preparations. Assume the downward dog thingy to check for the library books under the table. Use warrior pose with your honey when he suggests that he might want to work late tonight. If you really stretch with your back leg, you might be able to reach the bathroom door. Hold it closed to remind your older son than he really needs to flush before he comes out. Then swivel around–engaging your core–to direct him to the sink for washing his hands. Finish with child’s pose when one of the children tells you that they need 44 purple-frosted cupcakes by 10 am today, for the party they thought they told you about.

Stare at is picture of a labor intensive breakfast consisting of multiple complicated and / or expensive ingredients. Then make yourself some peanut butter toast and pour a large mug of coffee. Remember, coffee is just one of the few flimsy things that stand between you and prison.

Now that you’ve completed the warm-up, it is time to get that heart rate up. Just check the clock and realize that you should have left uh now. Kick it into high gear by jumping around the apartment on alternating legs while trying to put on pants. Windmill your arms to get the children moving toward the door. Make sure you leave some critical item behind, so you can have the added benefit of running back up to the fourth floor an extra time. Want to make it harder? Forget something else and remember it only on the second trip down. Now you can really feel the burn!

High intensity and high impact time! Let’s take it outside! Make sure you carry a minimum of 40 lbs of kid and backpack as you race walk the half mile to school. If you like intervals, you can alternate between carrying and dragging. Do this a minimum of four times and your biceps and back will love you for it! Remember, poofy down jacket season is just around the corner!

For strength training, look no further than your trip to the grocery store. If possible, wait until you run out of all the heavy stuff at the same time: milk, cat litter, laundry soap, box wine–all the essentials. That way you can maximize your heft and really throw those shoulders out of whack. Plus you will really blast some calories hauling all that stuff up to the fourth floor. Be sure to reward yourself with a few chia seeds when you get upstairs.

If you are looking to build stamina, you can just clean the apartment by walking from one end of it to the other, carrying things back to their base of origin. Based on my expert fitness assessment, one can do this circuit a total of 237 times and still have crap to put away. It is a great way to keep your heart rate and blood pressure up!

And for the real tough mothers, you can take on the laundry challenge. Haul 40 lbs of your family’s dirty clothes three blocks away to the nearest laundromat! For extra burn, carry the large size detergent–or better yet, run back for it! You will feel great as the weight of all those quarters tugs down your pants!

Let’s not forget the fitness fad of the moment: kickboxing! If your day is anything like mine, then you probably have numerous opportunities to practice your jab and cross, followed by a nice, satisfying roundhouse. Be creative in your workouts: think outside the gym! You could be throwing down with the clerk at the drugstore, the walkers-while-texters weaving around on the sidewalk, the UPS guy, the inept contractors working upstairs that inadvertently cut off heat to your apartment, the pot-smoking teenagers occupying the slide at the playground, and pretty much anyone working at your insurance company. Think of all these daily encounters as chances for calorie-burning and muscle-building! Thanks everyone! (After all, the relaxed feeling you experience afterward is probably keeping your family alive!)

Make sure you incorporate some more cardio intervals as you race from one school to the other, because of course they dismiss at exactly. The Same. Time. You can really torch those calories by alternating between dragging the kids behind you because they are “too tired to walk” and racing to catch them because they saw a dirty plastic spoon in the street that they need to bring home and keep forever! Make sure you turn up the burn by carrying their backpacks.

I’m sure you are already planning your high protein, fiber rich, healthy fats, green veggie filled dinner made from limp scallions and whatever is in the freezer, rounded out by peanuts. Make sure to engage the hamstrings when you are cleaning shells off the floor!

After dinner, hoist the lads  into the tub and boost them into bed. Finish up by raising your middle finger at the article that encourages you to do squats and lunges during commercials. When you have finished your wine glass bicep curls (about 150 reps ought to do it, adding more weight as necessary), reward yourself with a nice stretch, face down on your bed.

 

Mommy is tired.

Workout complete! Tomorrow you can shrug your shoulders hopelessly as you admire the payoff when you look in the mirror! You go, girl!

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Filed under Not cool, Mommy, The outside world

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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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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