Category Archives: small space living

The School Bus 3rd Birthday and Flower 5th Birthday Mashup Party, Or the Reason Why I am Late on All My Deadlines Right Now

A while ago I asked the kids what they wanted to do for their birthday party this year, just to feel it out. After all, maybe we are past the point of the scrappy apartment shared party? Maybe they have noticed that even though their birthdays are 2 weeks apart, most of their friends don’t have to share birthday parties, so what the hell, they want separate sleepover-at-the-museum parties?

But no, this thought had not occurred to them. Without hesitating, Harper rattled off the ingredients to a perfect party: “Chocolate cake, a pinata full of candy, goody bags with candy — do NOT try to make them healthy [this in a warning tone] — music, dancing, our friends, flowers, NO GAMES, and don’t forget the candy.” Ollie added: “School buses!” Adam had his own list culled from this one, which included name tags (because dads don’t know anyone’s names), lots of beer (or as Ollie put it, “beard for the grownups”), pizza, and a 2-hour window — people were welcome to stay longer, but we served cake like an hour in, so as not to have one of those situations were you are being held hostage by a kids’ party for your whole day. What I learned from doing pretty much this same party last year (when I was also about to have a book release!) and the year before (when we had just moved into our apartment that month!) was that Sunday afternoon parties are the easiest on Mama, because then you have all weekend to pull together all those cute decorations you pinned on your damn Pinterest page and so on.

It was relatively short and sweet, the kids had fun, their friends went home with huge bag of candy and plastic crap including whistles, so now we don’t have to worry about ever having a party again because I’m sure everyone hates us. It was fun for the grownups too, or at least it was for us, which meant we kind of forgot to take pictures of the actual party, but you can imagine how it went down: lots of kids racing around and creating a huge yellow balloon rat-king, smashing our poor beautiful pinata, and Harper and Ollie sneaking off into the other room to salivate over the presents. And now I wash my hands of kid parties until next spring. Good family-planning, us!

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.

Malka’s Miniature Room

The other day Harper declared Malka to be her best, best friend. This was after some quality time spent engaged in Harper’s favorite friend-activity, namely, holding hands and running and falling down. Just like true best friends, they spend a lot of time being sort of awful to each other. But lately an amazing thing has happened. On a playdate Malka’s mother (the accomplished poet and YA author Carley Moore, who also makes a killer smoothie) and I realized we hadn’t heard from the girls in a while. After a moment of cold dread, we found them happily playing together in Malka’s sweet little room. After two and a half years of parallel play interrupted now and then by knock-down-drag-out brawls, this is a very thrilling developmental milestone. Malka is an older woman, having already turned 3, and I think her maturity might be rubbing off on not-quite-two-and-a-half Harper.

I believe the sweetness of Malka’s room has something to do with their congenial play. There is just something about this room (and the whole apartment) that feels like home, that reminds me of what I loved about being a child and my own room growing up– a relaxed, homey warmth.

Here’s what Carley has to say about the 9×12 room and how it came together: “My mom, Judy Haller of Jamestown, New York, made both of the quilts.  The purple one she made for Malka when she was born and it’s made from fabrics that we’re designed to look like childrens’ fabrics from the 1940s.  I love some of those patterns–the tiny kittens and the hearts, very retro.”

” The second one (the red and blue one), my mom made last year for Malka at Christmas.  I love the reds and blues and that there is a different panel for every month.  I come from a long-line of quilt makers–most of the women in my family quilt (my mom, my aunts, my grandma) so it’s special to have these in Malka’s room.  Plus, they are so one-of-a-kind–the quilter’s vision is always so interesting to me, kind of like a writer’s voice.”

“Shells–Malka loves shells and jewelry.  We try to arrange those on her dresser, and she rearranges often.  She sometimes tries to sleep with her shells she loves them so much.” [Ed. note: Also My Little Pony! Hello, wave of nostalgia! YES!]

“The new bookcase.  It’s a piece of crap from Ikea–a Billy to be exact.  I don’t want to knock the Billy though.  We have many of them in our house full of books.  I always say that I won’t buy another, but they are so cheap and they fit a lot of stuff.  Now Malka has some bins for tiny things like cars, paper dolls, and beads, and all of her books and puzzles fit in one place.  Yay!”

“Matt’s father made the Malka collage when she was born.  He’s a painter and collage maker.”

I think it only fair to note that this room was spic-and-span when we arrived, but the girls immediately pulled down one of the toy bins and got to work making music and playing. I’m telling you, this room WORKS!

You know what else I think helps make this home so cozy and warm? The excellent design choice of cats draped luxuriously here and there.

Also, Malka has a kick-ass doll house that really reminds me of the Fisher Price one I used to have.

So there you have it. And now, let us hold hands and run in the fields together. Metaphorically, I mean, of course.