Tag Archives: apartment living

My Fault…

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I thought I could go back to bed and lie there for a bit without incident. So, technically, I suppose it was my fault. But I heard everyone helping each other get breakfast. It sounded peaceable.

So, forty glorious minutes later I walk out. The weather’s perfect. It’s sunny. Even the introvert in me is charmed.

“Let’s go to the park,” I say, “Shoes on.”

At this moment in the hallway the little guy passes me holding a spoonful of milky cereal in front of his belly and marching into his bedroom. Curious, I follow him. Then I watch as he stops, calculates, throws said cereal onto the carpet, touches one foot on top of it delicately as if to evaluate his success and turns, I’m assuming, in order to get more.

Well, I stop that nonsense and on the way to the kitchen with the spoon I notice several other arrangements of cereal on the floor and realize this is an installation piece, probably entitled “Scourge of My Mother”. There is also one very wet towel lying in a square on the floor.

“Hey guys? What’s with the wet towel? Did he have an accident?”

“No, Mom, he spilled a cup of milk,” said the eldest.

“He did it on purpose. And it was my milk,” said the girl.

Mixed media.

(There are many moments like this when I’m glad I don’t have a nice place. I can’t stand how my kids treat my two-bedroom rental. What on earth would I do if they treated my dream-house this way?!)

I proceed into the kitchen. And the baby has tried to make a smoothie.

Here is a picture of that baby:

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I sigh and scrap my plans for the park. I place the baby in the tub (the only place he will remain contained) and wipe counters, do dishes, unload dishwasher so I can load dishes, start laundry from last night’s pee debacle(another long story), scrub and baking soda a square of carpet, sweep the kitchen, vacuum and four hours later it’s nap time and I’m sucking down coffee and eating some Go Diego Go cereal. For some subliminal reason I wanted some.

The first baby, that’s not anyone’s fault. You’re naive; you’ve never had a baby. You don’t know. The second one, well, that’s not technically your fault either. You and your husband have seven siblings between you. Let’s blame family culture. But three, well- the third one’s on you. You asked for three. This is on you.

For LD…

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My dear friend and her family came over for dinner tonight. They’re the ones, when people say, “Wow! Three kids in a two bedroom apartment? That’s crazy!” I say of whom, “Oh, yeah? Well, some of our closest friends have four kids in a two bedroom apartment. Two bunkbeds, one room, just like that, bam, bam, bam, bam.”

So, there were seven kids seven and under at my “house” tonight. We were four adults helping the children regardless of to whom they belonged. We asked help of each other’s spouses because they were closer. We took shifts at dinner. And, amid the chaos, over the course of two hours, my friend and I managed to hold a disjointed conversation about how healthy it is to have more kids than we can handle.

Why? Because it keeps you humble. And keeping humble keeps you needing, needing God, needing neighbors. It’s great for her because she has to say no to some things that she might otherwise let define her. And it’s great for me because it takes me into community and out of my house where I would be very content to be defined by the pretty stories in my mind. It keeps us dependent on something else to define us, someone else. It keeps us needing Jesus.

It keeps our kids needing Jesus, too. Because, Hey-O!, no way I can address every single concern these kids have throughout the day. My daughter asked me today to bring her the glue from the desk. I was like, “You’re sitting next to the desk.”

It teaches them a little more independence because Mom “just can’t even”. And, I have to let them (pour their own milk!) because I “just can’t even”.

It also keeps you poorer. I mean, let’s call a spade a spade, people. And that keeps us in a healthy state of examination. How badly do I want this pair of socks?

And the judging. You can forget about the judging. Everyone should be overwhelmed to the point that they can no longer judge, very healthy.

All this to say, I think we comforted each other tonight. And for all of you out there who can’t have the overwhelming leagues of children you would like to have for one reason or another, let me just say to you that we, the overwhelmed, are thankful, know we should be thankful, and are trying desperately to be thankful all at the same time.

Love to all the Mommas tonight.

More Friends…

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So, I was at the laundromat doing practically every article of clothing our family of five owns. It needed to be done, yes; however, I was also planning on using it as an unassailable blind to have some mommy time and watch that new movie that came to Netflix that my husband would never ever watch with me in a hundred years. (Dramas maybe, romantic comedies maybe, romantic dramas… never!)

I had the first three loads up on the counter, my iPad was open, and my earbuds were in when I get the unequivocal feeling that I am supposed to be fully present in my environment. I try to reason, then argue down the feeling. But I end up taking my earbuds out and closing the screen.

The instant this is done I hear a young voice and turn to see the four-year-old daughter of my new Muslim friend from the park. And she’s with her father. She recognizes me and we share a few smiles. I’m instantly glad I put off my movie. I haven’t seen my friend in a week or so. I tried to take strawberries over, but the buzzer wasn’t working or she wasn’t in or something.

I have a brief internal debate with myself. What must a man from a culture that requires headdresses think of a woman in shorts being forward enough to introduce herself? But I decide that since he lives here in SF that he would have practiced grace enough in this area to have some for me and my boldness.

So, I go up and introduce myself and chat with his daughter briefly and we shake hands and it’s all well and good and when they leave later he and his daughter call to me and wave goodbye.

And then today, coming back from the laundromat again, me and my enthusiastic Americanism saw a hijabi woman outside my friend’s building and ran across the street to say hi. It is only when I was too close to turn away that I realized it wasn’t her. So, I made another new friend in a different apartment of the same building, directly across from mine.

I am very excited to know these women, these families. And I’m thankful, grumble grumble, for the laundry that takes me down to the street to be present in my neighborhood.  (Is it wrong that I will still buy a washer-dryer as soon as I have space and money for one?)

Family Game Night…

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Norman Rockwell always makes it look good, doesn’t he? He draws the family eating and, yes, someone’s feeding the dog under the table and, yes, someone’s getting awkwardly squished between a couple of over affectionate great-aunts, but it’s lovely, because it’s … what? Beautiful? Americana? Reality? Well, allow me to play Norman Rockwell for a moment and paint you the picture of our evening.

James and I ran some errands with the kids this afternoon. We hit five stores in an hour and a half so, really, we were doing quite well.

We even managed to get home at the right time to start dinner. Of course, as any mother of small children will tell you, there is no right time to start dinner. In my experience it is impossible to get food in the mouth of a child before they are “starving”. It is actually hopeless because whenever you start cooking, they will still smell the cooking before it is done.

But, I was doing ok. I was cooking. I was cleaning as I went along. To be sure, there was a LOT of screaming going on in the background, a few time-outs were being doled, but it was mostly out of the kitchen if not behind sound proof doors. And then, my eighteen month old has learned how to move the stools around. So now, you turn around and when you turn back there’s a baby trying to stir the pot or pull the knife into his face, for example. Basically I was Shiva in the kitchen this evening trying to have three arms to baby’s two.

And then I snapped. I yelled. My husband got the ol’ “Why aren’t you in here helping me?!?!?!” bit. I honestly can’t remember passing the point where I realized I needed help. I went straight from “I got this” to “I needed your help five minutes ago”, straight there.

So dinner began with Mom delivering a four point apology:

“I’m sorry I snapped.”

“It was wrong because no matter how angry I am I should still speak to you with respect.”

“In the future I will try to recognize my breaking point before I get there and take a deep breath before I speak.”

“Will you forgive me?”

Everyone said yes. It seemed to me that my husband said it rather smugly, but that’s probably just me.

So then we decide to ice the cake, so to speak, and make it a family game night.

My six-year-old picks Blockus, a fantastic game requiring four players and about a zillion tiny pieces.

It was a bit of a disaster. The eighteen month old was continually wedging himself into any portion of empty chair he could find and diving at the board. We were pushing chairs in and passing water glasses across the table in a sort of baby avoidance dance we are rather practiced in at this point of our marriage. After about eight rounds the baby slowly picked up a piece and when I went to take it away he released it, dove for the board and finally succeeded in casting the pieces asunder.

As we pulled him away he yelled something sounding very much like, “Attack!”

We began again. My four-year-old was losing interest fast which was fine because she was basically using a kamikaze strategy that was not doing anyone any favors. My son began to get upset that he was being blocked during a game of BLOCK-US. And I end up playing with the baby sitting on my shoulders. I think he ate the bobby pin out of my hair because I can’t find it anywhere.

The game ended rather abruptly when a moment of frustration from my eldest child sent the pieces asunder for the second time almost an hour after we had first begun our bold strike for family togetherness.

We put the kids to bed after that. That was forty minutes ago. The baby keeps grabbing the blinds and making the most spectacular sound slapping them around, which has the others cracking up. We’ve gone in there three times already.

I was hoping by the end of this blog, they’d be done…

Nope. Here goes Dad. He’s putting an end to my daughter’s singing. Oh, now she’s crying.

“What is she crying about?” I ask when he comes out.

“She wants to go to sleep,” he shakes his head, and smiling a little adds, “At least we’re all going for the same thing.”

Newness…

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Happy New Year’s Day.

We went down to South San Francisco last night. A friend down there has a place with a yard and a puppy. The kids and puppy were one unit of energy, bringing to mind an electron with it’s dual qualities of solid particles and waves, everywhere and, yet, nowhere.

At one point, my husband turned to me and said, “Man, if we had a yard they’d be playing out there all day long.”

I blinked slowly at him.

We made it back by ten, the kids conked out, and the husband and I made some whiskey sours and settled in to watch an episode of our current program.

Living in a city is funny. Sometimes you can forget just how many people are snug up next to you, how many lives really fit into four units over a garage. At midnight there was a roar and we paused our program to listen.

We went to the open window and listened to the celebration of so many lives, different parties, different places. Others, like us, silent and backlit, leaning out their windows into our common space of air, just listening, people whose interiors I had glimpsed, who couldn’t be called complete strangers.

The ships in the harbor blew their horns and the sound was surprisingly clear on the chill wind.

I like New Year’s, the holiday that looks forward. It’s one of the only holidays you don’t typically spend where you came from, with your family. You spend it with your chosen people, those who will be there, where you’re going.

Happy looking forward! Happy newness! Happy New Year!