Tag Archives: ymca

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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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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The Downward Spiral

Have I mentioned the Fun Apartment has an extra feature to make it even more fun? It’s on the fourth floor! That’s three flights of stairs!

You probably know not to ask, but I’ll answer anyway: Nope. No elevator.

That’s right, it’s that New York City exclusive: the fourth floor walk-up. And honestly, the stairs don’t really bother me that much. Coming back from Trader Joe’s, I groan inwardly to look at them, but for the most part, they go by quickly enough. Thanks to the free babysitting at the Y, I’m not gasping for breath at the Fun Apartment’s door. Also, imagine the health benefits for the kids! After all, they have been scaling the heights for years now. Little demanded to climb them at a shockingly early age and I’ll be honest, I was happy to let him. I just walked up slowly behind him as he scooted after his big brother. Aside from the horrible morning when he, at eleven months, decided he’d also like to go down and did so in a barrel roll, he’s never expressed any hesitation.

Until now.

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You know how your day has pinch points in it? Times when you have stuff that has to happen before anything else can happen? I’ve found that my kids have been remarkably astute at finding the pinch points. And flopping down, howling, in the middle of them.

And that’s what Little is doing now. He sits at the bottom of the stairs and loses it. Sometimes he wants to be first one to the top, but the colossal size of his fuss distracts him from actually moving until his brother has been inside the apartment for ten minutes. Other times he wants to play “visitor.” That’s when he sits at the bottom of the stairs until I have come up. Then he comes and rings the doorbell. But if there is any hitch to his game, like say, me leaving the door open so I can keep track of him, then he throws down like a boss.

(Confession: one day last week, it was so bad that I was really, actually tempted to close the door, lock it, and not open it until the man of the house came home from work, three hours later. I didn’t actually do that, so I suppose that’s a win.)

We have really nice, understanding neighbors here at the Fun Apartment. And they have to put up with a fair amount of our kid business anyway. I don’t want to subject them to any more. But right now, they are getting a good hard look at the hopeless poopstorm err fine art of parenting.

Usually, the little guy and I go on several daily outings. Now, with this insurmountable stair problem, I am tempted to stay locked up here in the wonder palace until the siege has ended.  At least it’s New York City. They deliver anything here.

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First time for everything

The Fun Apartment has seen some firsts lately. For example, there was the first day of first grade. This was also the first time Big put on his shoes without being asked–same day! There was my husband’s first time remembering where the salad spinner goes. My first attempt at grilling flatbread was largely successful, too.

But the big first is this:

Somehow, the button down shirt just says "first day of school," doesn't it?

Somehow, the button down shirt just says “first day of school,” doesn’t it?

That’s right, the little guy is going somewhere, too. OK, it’s only two mornings a week, but that’s Two! Mornings! Every! Week! And it’s at the Y! Where another grown up is the boss of the fun!

We’ve needed this for a while. For all the press about how awesome staying at home with your kids is, there are drawbacks. (Oh, let me count the drawbacks. . . ) I can’t really introduce him to circle time. There’s only so much Thomas the Tank Engine I’m willing to withstand. And the poor kid doesn’t have any friends. Sure, there are kids he sees on the playground occasionally. There are younger siblings of his brother’s school friends. But there are no friends that are just his.

So, while my enthusiasm for this is entirely selfish, my motives are not. He needs to learn things from other people. He needs his own friends (although I will promptly begin to stalk all the other parents for the full contact bloodsport that is playdate scheduling.)

And at drop off, there was a pang. There was the sweet feeling of his little hand holding mine for reassurance. Then there were Legos on a table. After that it was “When are you leaving, Mommy?”

I’m kinda working myself out of a job here.

That’s the point, though, isn’t it? Ultimately, I want these boys to not need me. And there are definitely times that I want them to stop needing me right now. But we’ll go forward gently.

After all, one of them is still too short to reach the sink.

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It’s fun to stay at the . . .

There are many reasons our local YMCA is important to us. There’s the free babysitting, the exercise equipment, the free babysitting, the showering alone (unless you count all the other women in the locker room), the free babysitting, and most importantly, THE FREE BABYSITTING.

Before we joined the Y, I’m pretty sure we had some sort of police report in our future. Mercifully, we were saved from my appearing in an episode of a Netflix series. And I am running at a pretty good clip theses days!

But there’s another reason to love the Y, and here it is:

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Much joy it has brought me.

Yes, the Y has a free bookshelf and I LIVE AND DIE by it. I feel in communion with this bookshelf. When I am feeling defeated, down, and utterly useless, it knows, and offers me — no, not comfort — but comfort food, or the literary equivalent of comfort food. There are books by authors I’ve followed, or books in genres that have claimed me as their own, or bestsellers from years ago that I swore were too popular to read, but then turned out to be good. The Y bookshelf offers me books in which I can lose myself.

Granted, it’s not jam-packed with goodies every time, and luckily so, because despite the workouts, a girl can only carry so much (or more to the point, fit so much in her apartment). But I manage to pull something interesting off of it at least once a week. Occasionally, it’s something divine.

Granted, there are quirks. The bookshelf has a habit of offering books 1 and 3 in a trilogy, and once I thought I was going to have to fight a rather determined dowager for the last issue of Canadian Quilter.

And today, there was this:

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US Weekly, eat your heart out.

It’s a real book. With covers. And a list of celebrities on the back. Well, a list of names, anyway. The definition of celebrity seems to have been stretched to rather obese proportions.

But I was delighted, because the Y bookshelf knows just what it takes to cheer me up.

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