Category Archives: home

Recipe for a Good Day

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The funny thing about parenting is that just when you think you have it all figured out, a kid stops napping or starts biting, or schedules change, or you change, and it’s almost like you have to start all over, figuring out how to have a good day. That’s my goal lately, a good day. It’s hard to think bigger than that, and when I start considering Childhood or Theories of Brain Development or What Kind of Parent One Ought to Be I get really tired and need a nap. But my kids don’t nap. So I can’t. Instead I spend a lot of energy trying to make each day good. Not perfect, but good. Each day with little kids is a marathon and a lifetime and a work of art and a mess. Inevitably.

Because I seem to have to relearn this every day, I am writing this to remind myself what helps, at this moment in time — as the kids are almost-3 and almost-5 and still home for most of the day and at the end of a long long winter — for a day to be a good one.

1) Stay busy but flexible. This is a real SAHM thing, to be sure. Maybe it’s because my kids are so, how you say, batshit crazy, it always helps us to have a Plan A and a Plan B and a Plan Z. In this matter give them pretend choices. “Do you want to do X or Other X, both of which I have pre-approved?”

2) Remember to take breaks. Book time in bed. Juice breaks at playdates. Bench-sits at museums and parks. You actually have to make it happen and it actually makes a huge difference. There is no nap anymore. Get over it. Remember that some minutes playing math games on Starfall will not suck their imaginations out of their heads. Chillax, Mama. Break time = important.

3) Invest in healthyish convenience food. Because I am sorry, but few things are as enraging as involving the kids in menu planning and grocery shopping just like the thingy you read said to, spending an hour cooking with “helpers” wobbling on chairs in the galley kitchen, all Montesourri-like, only to end up with a huge mess and food that the kids just look at and cry. Try again with the real food in a year. Until then, fuck it, how bad can Annie’s Mac and Cheese every night be? (Do not read the story about the girl who ate only chicken nuggets for 17 years. Do not hang out with the mom whose kid eats bell peppers at the playground like they are apples. Do not click on any BuzzFeed thingies about any kind of food.)

4) Get out everyday. If nothing else, walk to the mailbox or invent something you need to buy at the store that can be scooted to. Even in the winter. Even when they’re sick. Even when the bundling up takes longer than the outside time.

5) See other grownups/text your friends/look at twitter just enough so you stay sane or at least remember that all the parents are feeling crazy.

6) Keep the ratio of art project setup/cleanup to actual kid-entertainment potential in mind. No wants to clean up fucking cloud dough all night.

7) Remember Pinterest is a liar. Most of the internet is a liar. And nothing entertains kids for hours. Nothing.

8) When possible, don’t react. To hitting, to whining, to acting out. Remember Amy Fusselman, who writes in her memoir 8 that when you are parenting small children, you are a robot. When not reacting is impossible, don’t beat yourself up about it. Tell yourself some shit about how it’s good for kids to see you get mad and calm down or something . That has to be constructive somehow, right? Because you’re not actually a robot, are you? And just imagine how entertaining it must be for your neighbors down the hall to hear you yelling “I SAID STOP BITING YOUR SISTER’S BUTT!!” and how pleasant for them to get to feel kind of superior to you. That’s a great gift, really, that you are offering them. You’re welcome, them!

9) Leave the kids alone. I mean not alone alone but they can play together, and they can be screaming one second and resolve it the next, and you will surely be alerted if the skirmish is unresolvable. You didn’t have 2 kids to have 2 people to have to entertain constantly. You had 2 kids so they would play “kid/grownup” long enough for you to tap out a blog post on your phone!

10) Don’t clean up after they are in bed. Make them help even though it sucks and they do a crap-ass job of sorting the toys into the appropriately-labelled bins so that their room looks nothing like the ones on your really excellent Kids’ Rooms Pinterest page, which remember, is a liar anyway. Or at least let the kids see you do it. After they are in bed, that is your time. A coworker once told me, “I don’t have a clean house. That’s the new feminism.” Take out the trash and load the dishwasher and then read that New York Times article about how a clean house is a sign of a wasted life or just skim it and then read an amazing book instead, or make some art, or call someone, or do something crazy like talk to your husband. Fuck cleaning. Seriously. Unless you like it. In which case you’re crazy.

11) When all else fails, look at the kids’ baby pictures together. They love it, you love it, it helps put everything into perspective.

12) Don’t forget the 3:00 pm coffee. That’s the one that makes it all work.

13) Inevitably, on a crappy day, an old lady will stop you on the street and tell you to enjoy every moment. This is crazy of course and only possible to even consider if you’ve completely forgotten what little kids are like. But you can enjoy one moment. There is one magical moment in every shitstorm of a day, and you’ve got to enjoy the hell out of that moment. Remember, if you can, if for only that one moment of the day about all the wonder. All the goddamned crazy this-is-your-life wonder.

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(top image from Emily Winfield Martin’s DREAM ANIMALS.)

Girls’ Night

Sometimes on the days when I work Harper and I have a girls’ night dinner. I put Ollie to bed and then Harper and I eat dinner together, complete with a candle, and ice waters for toasting. She’s a pretty good date, at least until she has a tantrum about hair-brushing. So anyway, tonight she asked me what I wrote about at the coffee shop (she is the only one who ever asks me this, by the way) and I was explaining a post I wrote about Martha Gellhorn’s favorite getaways.

Me: “She loved to travel all over the world, and then she’d write about it. So I wrote about some of her favorite place to go. She was a very cool lady who had lots of adventures.”

Harper: “…and children?”

Me: “Well actually no.”

Harper: “Oh, that’s good.”

Me: “Why?”

Harper: “I’m worried if she had lots of children they would grab her glasses. Did she wear glasses?”

Me: “No, I don’t think so.”

Harper: “Oh, ok. Well I’m still glad she didn’t have children because then I’m worried they might try to come with on all her adventures and think they were writers too.”

Me: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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The Boy/Girl Bedroom

I keep meaning to post some beautifully set-dressed and well-photographed evidence of our new home. “Look at that sun-washed room with the casual vase of peonies just so, and that teacup which I hardly notice but which lends the whole image a subliminal coziness!” You would exclaim. But I don’t have time for any of this. I’m revising the novel in every spare instant and chasing Ollie down off the ceiling in every unspare instant. Anyway, so for now some iPhone pics of the kiddo room. I just think it’s a really cute little room, with its wacky, mostly accidental mix of patterns and the well-hung (snicker snicker) artwork arranged by professional art handler, Uncle Doug. Harper loves it, though she doesn’t understand why they can’t have bunk beds yet. (Because I’m mean, pretty much.) And the other day she got all teary, missing the silver stars in her tiny old closet of a room. Recreating those stars is actually on my to-do list. Number 947. Getting there.

I think we probably still count as a tiny kids’ room, though to us it feels huge. To have room to play! In the bedroom! How novel! They even have a closet, half of which is dedicated to clothes and books. We are living the life over here, people. Don’t even get me started on the elevator. Or the parking garage. Park Whope? Anyway. So behold: the room: as it actually is every day. (Imagine the sunlight, flowers, and achingly lovely photography. And tidiness, imagine some tidiness too.)

PS I wrote this post on my phone while kind of supervising Harper taking a bath. I’m such a good mom!

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The 2-for-1-Special Springtime Birthday

One thing you have to admit for our family planning, we are really going to save money on birthday parties. Man, have we beat the system!

Last year I was convinced Alton was going to be born on Harper’s birthday, and so we had her tiny tea party a little early, but he had the good manners/laziness to be born weeks later. That was fun! I’m kidding, it was miserable! Anyway. So their birthdays ended up being two weeks apart, in different months even so they each get their own little sector of spring, but close enough that for the next few years anyway we can force them let them share a birthday party.

I decided a spring theme made sense, which meant some fake cherry blossom sprigs, some springy bunting, and two cake-foods. For the Harper side of things, dainty pink cupcakes with gum paste cherry blossoms that I lovingly crafted by hand. Come on, my kids eat nuggets every night. I ordered those suckers online. And for the Alton side of things, a chocolate cake that looked like mud, which is to say, slathered in chocolate pudding and crumbled cookies and gummy worms and slugs. For some reason, some of the guests found this to be off-putting. There was pin-the-tail-on-the-robin, but more importantly, tons of balloons. And that was it. We played records. We gave the grownups mimosas and bagels. Alton wandered around like a puppy, climbing into people’s laps and stealing their food. Harper occasionally reminded her guests not to take home her presents. Murray got shy at the last minute and stayed home with all his cats in Paris. It was really so much fun, and we felt so thankful to all the friends and new neighbors who came by, and very house-warmed and heart-warmed.

Here are some photos Adam took. And you can also get a peek at our new place, which we are semi-settled into. So without further ado, here is why is my novel revisions are not into my editor yet:

This is Kensington. Or Windsor Terrace. Or Something.

ocean parkway and caton avenue

Our corner, as it was in the 1940s. Thanks, Brooklyn Collection!

Well! So! We did it! We moved! It went kind of like this:

March, 2011: “Hey, we’re having another baby! But wait, we live in a 1.5 bedroom. Okay, a 1 bedroom. Oh, who cares.”

August, 2011: “HOLY SHIT WE HAVE TO MOVE.”

November, 2011: “Wait, what? After some months of getting super depressed about how super depressing Brooklyn real estate is, we found a non-depressing apartment? Weird! Let’s buy it!”

February, 2012: “Wait, what? We bought an apartment? HOLY SHIT NOW WE HAVE TO MOVE.”

From thence followed very shoddy packing, some chaotic days of moving, including panic attacks about whether or not our voluminous books-n-records collections were going to make our movers commit seppuku, some very shoddy unpacking, still not finished. Oh, I forgot the spirit-crushing anxieties over retiling the kitchen and bathroom and repainting and changing light fixtures and doorknobs and whatnot, which caused me to guiltily remember every time I’d mentally answered someone’s “Man, my renovations are killing me” with a resounding (albeit silent) “SHUT YOUR PRIVILEGED LITTLE TALK-HOLE!” (Turns out that stuff actually really is stressful. Who knew!)

So anyway, we made it, we’re here, in our new little corner of Brooklyn. If you’re from Brooklyn, we are on the border between Kensington and Windsor Terrace. If you’re not, we are still kinda near Park Slope, on a different corner of the park. Or, as our Manhattan-bound real estate lawyer put it, “Kinda near the ocean?” Exactly. Actually, you know, all of New York City is an…oh, never mind.

In EB White’s great essay Here is New York, he writes:”A woman friend of mine moved recently from one apartment to another, a distance of three blocks. When she turned up, the day after the move, at the same grocer’s that she had patronized for years, the proprietor was in ecstasy–almost in tears–at seeing her. “I was afraid,” he said, “now that you’ve moved away I wouldn’t be seeing you anymore.” To him away was three blocks, or about seven hundred and fifty feet.”

This is precisely so. We’ve been moaning about how weird it would be to leave the place we lived for 7 years, our beloved best-ever neighborhood, and then sniffling and saying things like, “Well, I guess if we really miss the bakery/bodega/block we could always…walk over one day. It would take like 15 minutes though.”

But I have to say, so far we really love it. First of all, the space. We have our own bedroom! Adam and I, that is. The kids have their own bedroom! Shared, that is. (If you’re from Brooklyn: I know, isn’t that exciting? A bedroom! With a window and a closet and a door! If you’re from anywhere else in the country excepting possibly San Francisco: Yes, the kids share a room, get over it.) We have  multiple closets and multiple doors! The kitchen has these storagey things called “cabinuts” or something! It’s all quite thrilling. And the building is full of friendly kids and neighbors and dogs and such. Harper’s favorite thing ever is pushing the elevator buttons. My favorite thing ever is pushing my SUV of a double stroller into the elevator. People, this is the life.

I’m already feeling protective of Kensington, though. I was just about to write about how I love my new coffee shop/office, our new playground, our new library branch, our new playspace, and then I was about to write something about how none of these places are as ridiculously crowded all the time as their shinier Park Slope counterparts (we’ve never waited in line for a swing at the playground here, if you can believe it), but then I thought, Waaaaiiiit- If I tell everyone how great it is here than everyone else will move here and then where will I be? In line for a goddamned swing is where.

Then I remembered that, thank goodness, I hardly have that kind of influence. Or readership. And also, we’ve only been here a few weeks. There’s plenty of time to realize we’ve made a TERRIBLE MISTAKE AND RUINED OUR LIVES AND THE LIVES OF OUR INNOCENT CHILDREN.

Nah. Come on, Steeplechase Coffee has red velvet twinkies! What could go wrong?

Here We Are

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A Moving Tribute

To live gracefully in a small space, you must either be a minimalist or exquisitely organized. Unfortunately, we are neither. Fortunately, we are moving to a larger apartment this week. Unfortunately, this means we have to move. Fortunately, we have two small children who love cardboard boxes and are happy to pack. Unfortunately, this is how they pack:

With any luck, by this time next week we will be all settled in. Hard to imagine, but there’s a chance.