Tag Archives: motherhood

Thanks For the Train Table, But My Kid Lives in an Apartment

Our family of four lives in a three-bedroom apartment in New York City. The kids share a bedroom and the “third bedroom” is a dining room that has been transformed into a playroom (a rare luxury in these parts). I am engaged in a perpetual war against Addy and Zack’s toys, trying to contain them in these two rooms in a configuration that doesn’t resemble a garbage dump.  See exhibit A for evidence of my failure:

Playroom

Two weeks ago, both my mother and my sister-in-law called me while holiday shopping. “Do you think Zack wants Legos?”, “How about a real workbench with a full set of tools and screws?” I had to veto it all. “Nothing big.” I said, “Nothing that comes with a million pieces, nothing that resembles anything they already have.” I needed to defend the small amount of grown up space we still have in our home. More importantly, the more puzzles, pegs, beads, squinkies, legos and 50-piece wooden food sets that accumulate, the closer I get to seeking professional help for the undiagnosed OCD that keeps me up until 1:00 AM organizing it all. The bottom line is that until we live in a house in the suburbs with a hoarders-inspired, kids-only basement, I will be the Grinch who stole Hanukkah. Accordingly, I have developed a list of a few of the top holiday gifts for preschoolers who live in apartments. Grandmas and Grandpas, take note.

Real Deal Gift Ideas…

Tickets to the Fresh Beat Band Concert

They’re small. We throw them in the garbage when we’re done with them. Most important, I can never figure out when they go on sale until I’m a month too late and only the crappy seats are left, so I need someone else to take over this job anyway.

Disney DVDs

They’re easy to store and they double as a free two-hour babysitter when I want to take a nap.

Gifts for Those on a Budget…

A Box of Cookies

There’s nothing that gets little kids more excited than giving them a box of cookies. What’s great is that they are perfectly satisfied when you give them just one. What’s even better is that they believe you when you tell them there are no cookies left in the box the next day because they finished them all.

Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is like the supporting actress who steals the show from the leading lady, the bread that you fill up on at a restaurant and then have no room left for dinner. No matter what amazing toy is protected by its cushy little buttons, kids always just want to play with the bubble wrap. It provides hours of entertainment and can be dumped with a clean conscience once it’s deflated. What more could a little apartment dweller’s mom ask for?

Gifts I Can Only Dream About…

Live-in Housekeeper

A perfect gift for a toddler, a live-in housekeeper will provide one more adult in the apartment who will bend to their every whiny command. As an added bonus, when grandma inevitably ignores your request to nix the fifty-piece puzzle books that constantly spill out all over the floor, a live-in housekeeper will help keep your sanity better than lithium. Where’s she going to sleep? Hell, if she really cleans up every day, she can take my side of the bed and I’ll sleep standing up in the closet.

A Storage Unit

For a mere $100/month, you can bring joy to the heart of a little one by bringing the coveted basement full of toys to the NYC apartment. So what if it’s just a 3’ x 3’ x 3’ metal cage? Who cares if I stuff it so full of exersaucers, baby swings and singing puppy dogs that if a kid actually took anything out of it, it would trigger a deadly avalanche? Big deal if the sub cellar where it’s located is also a rat tenement? I could get rid of TWENTY SEVEN CUBIC FEET of toys! Definitely worth the risks.

Ambien-Laced Brownies

Total non-sequitur. It’s 10:41 PM right now. Why the hell is Zack still up in his bed whispering to his team of stuffed animals? Either this kid needs some Ambien-laced brownies for Hanukkah or I do so I can go to sleep and stop staring at his beady, glowing eyes in the damn monitor.

Be Warned…

Ignore the aforementioned banned gift characteristics and your present will land on the re-gift shelf. The re-gift shelf is a thing of beauty. It emits rays of sunshine every time I crack open the closet door as if it was a direct invention of God him(her?it?)self. Entry to the re-gift shelf means there is one less toy messing up my living room and there is one less gift I have to buy for someone else. So actually, I beg you, please forget everything I said in this post and just give my kids something I can guiltlessly pass on to someone else.

Share your ideas!  What are some serious or funny ideal gifts for the space challenged?

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My Plundered Privacy

One of the things I have had to get used to in my transition from peaceful, care-free adult to harried mom is the complete and utter loss of personal privacy.  It started when I became pregnant and has steadily gone downhill from there.  Once I started showing, both familiar and unfamiliar hands constantly fondled my stomach.  Taxi drivers regularly guessed that I was having a dinosaur based on the unsettling ratio of belly : rest of body (5:1 in my case).  When the babies arrived, random people approached me on the street, stuck their faces in my stroller and asked totally reasonable questions like “Did you have sex with your husband to conceive these twins or did you have to do IVF?”

But these jarring invasions of my privacy were nothing compared to what is going on currently, and the perpetrators are not strangers, they are my kids.  Ever since they figured out how to turn a door handle, I have not been able to go to the bathroom in peace.  While the initial interruptions were not terribly annoying, their more recent shenanigans have been increasingly disturbing, in more than one sense of the word.

Zack takes an in-your-face approach where he slams open the door with no warning and starts interrogating me.  “Hi Mommy, what are you doing? Are you making a pee pee?  Are you making a poopy?  Can I see? Is your pee pee yellow? Why is pee pee yellow?  Can you buy me a phone like yours?   Can I see your phone?   What are you doing with your phone?  Are you calling Daddy?  Why does it smell like poopy in here?”  He doesn’t ask all of these questions from the doorway, he asks them while hanging on me with his elbows digging like spikes into my knees.  He leaves me so little personal space, it would be hard for an outsider to tell which one of us was actually the one taking the…well you know.

Addy has a completely different strategy.  Over the past week, she has been quietly slipping into the bathroom and setting up a panel of judges on the tub ledge.  The first few days brought this:

These prissy little b-tches have surely never peed or pooped in their entire lives and from the look on their faces, they did not approve of what they witnessed.  I think that after a few days they outright refused to be subjected to such unladylike behavior because Addy stopped bringing them into the bathroom and instead brought these things:

These freakish, fat-headed Squinkies have been staring at me while I do my business since last weekend.  Their presence shortens my bathroom stay substantially because I’m afraid if I sit too long, they will start marching, single-file, into my nostrils to eat my brain.  I’m pretty sure that next week, Addy’s going to bring in a hologram of Dora singing “You did it!  You did it! You did it!  Hiciste una caca!”

I don’t totally know what to make of all of this.  What I do know is that my bathroom will no longer be a sacred refuge where I can steal a few minutes of tranquility, at least not for another ten years.  So if you see me with a box of Depends in the dark alley down the street, leave me alone, I just may have found the answer to my problem.

What Color Is Your Para-Shoot Me!

Aside from being disheartened with my nanny situation, being disheartened with my work situation was the other big reason behind my momamorphosis from working mom to stay-at-home mom.  The truth is, I have always been a big nerd.  In first grade, I put my head down on my desk and cried for an hour the first time I didn’t get 100% on a spelling test (and the gumball that came along with it).  I recently read that sad little story in a note from my teacher, Mrs. Randall, which my mom had saved.  My mom thinks my teacher shared it to show how smart and dedicated to learning I was.  I think it was a polite plea to send me to therapy.  In any event, this need to always get an “A” (and gorge on candy) has pretty much shaped my life to this day in both good and bad ways.

On the good side, I’ve always loved school and done well.  On the bad side, the only passion I developed in my 19 years of education from Kindergarten through an MBA is a passion for getting good grades.  I never gravitated heavily toward a particular subject and I was undecided with respect to my major in college for the first year-and-a-half – that’s a long time.   I ultimately chose finance and accounting because it is what my dad does, I was good at the academics of it and it would allow me to get a job that would pay enough to cover NYC rent after graduation, not because it really spoke to me.

My first job in real estate at an investment bank fell in my lap through a contact and my course was set.  Work followed the same pattern as school – it was the positive feedback from bosses and colleagues that drove me, not the content of the work.  For a long time, it didn’t strike me that there was anything wrong with this kind of value system.  Doing a good job at work felt good, I appeared to have a successful career to the outside world and somehow those things made me content.  But then everything changed when Addy and Zack came along.  Suddenly, the “good jobs”, the pats on the back and the titles meant nothing to me compared to the little smiles and giggles that awaited me at home.  I increasingly felt that I only really wanted to be leaving those sweet faces each morning if something more profound was happening where I was going.  To me, profound meant contributing a substantial share of the household income, impacting other people’s lives in a meaningful way or doing something that truly engaged me, made me feel more alive, and therefore made me a better version of myself and a better mother and wife.  Because none of this was happening when I walked out that door each morning (and because the nanny situation was less than ideal), I made the leap and resigned.

Staying at home is not the end goal for me though.  Finding that perfect, “have-it-all” state as a mom is tricky and “have-it-all” means something different for every individual.  For some, having it all means being able to stay at home with the kids 100% of the time.  For others, being able to have kids and dominate a demanding job is the end-all be-all.  For me, it’s something in between.  But before I can figure out what ratio of family to work is my ideal, I need to delve deeper into what kind of work truly deserves to be a piece of the “all” I want to have.  I now understand that the work part of my equation isn’t just about a paycheck or a breather from the kids or a pat on the back from grown-ups.  It has to be more meaningful in some way so that years from now, when my family and I reflect on the time I spent away from them to work, we can all be proud of what I was doing and why I was doing it.

In the meantime, I’m settling in to an environment where my bosses are three feet tall and the feedback I get is mostly whining and crying that I’m not working fast enough.  But that’s OK because I’m passionate about the content.  🙂