Life in 409

This blog is about my quest to declutter my apartment. It focuses on clutter, decluttering, and the endless quest to separate the junk from the important stuff - at home and in life.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hello Again

It has been forever since I updated this blog, longer than forever since I focused on clutter.

When I started out, we had two kids in a 2-bedroom apartment and I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff. We now have FOUR kids in a 2-bedroom apartment. Can you guess what has happened?

We still haven't moved. Our apartment was on the market twice - once in 2009-2010, and then again from 2010-2011. For various reasons (offers too low, working part-time, having babies) we never managed to sell. And now it is again time to list except that we can't seem to stomach the idea of actually listing it. We don't know where to start. We don't know where to go. We are afraid of low offers, of rejection, of buying something we are unhappy with, of being broke. And we are somehow powerless to tame the clutter that needs to be tamed in order to simply list the place. We are stuck and we need help but where? How?

I have great plans. Ambitions. But I get home and I sink into the couch. Or the computer chair. Or the bed. I nurse the baby. I clean off the dining room table AGAIN. I pick up scraps of paper for the hundredth time. Mere drops in the veritable ocean of clutter. And I ask myself... how did this happen? And then I get depressed. Or I yell at the kids. Or I curse and eat and hide in bed.

On the bright side... my favorite clutter bugs

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A Real All-Star

Now batting...
The kid is 11 years old and has been playing Little League baseball almost every year since he was 5. He is a solid player – not the best on the team, not the worst. He usually plays in the outfield where he doesn’t get much action. He can hit; he also knows when to wait it out and often walks. This year his hitting has improved and he has gotten a hit at nearly every at-bat. The coach and manager have been impressed with him and have told us so. He goes to every game, every practice.

There are only four teams in the Majors division this year; each got to pick six for the All-Star Game, which was held last night. My husband felt that with all the compliments J has been getting, and with half the team going into the All-Star lineup, the Kid had a pretty good shot. I was more cautious as I know how stressful it is waiting and hoping to be picked...

Last Tuesday was the last regular game before the All-Star game, as there were no games over Memorial Day weekend. The manager said he had not yet made his All-Star picks, but we would know soon. This brought back bad memories of last year, when J's team had sent the five kids who were the kids of the team's coaches and managers (all different people from this year's group). He had made the decision in secret, as opposed to other teams who had made a big announcement and encouraged all the kids to come and cheer on their friends.

Back to THIS season... after practice on Friday night, the Kid was smiling when we picked him up. “I am probably going to the All-Star game!” The red flag went up in my pessimistic mind: “What do you mean ‘probably’”? He said that the manager was away, but the coach told him, "The manager has final say, but right now, you are on the list." My husband spoke to the assistant coach who told him what a great job our son has done all year, and how she is pulling really hard for him. My doubts still lingered but I was excited for him and he was excited for himself.

We received no phone calls regarding the game over the long weekend. While this put further doubt in my mind, my husband felt it meant nothing had changed, and he was still in the lineup.

What was stressing my husband out was that J has a major role in a play at school, and this would be the final week of preparation – dress rehearsal Tuesday and Wednesday, performances Thursday and Friday. J had been warned that he could not miss dress rehearsal, which was going on until at least 6:00 PM - but he had to be on the baseball field by 5:45 PM. I wrote him a note that I would be picking him up at 5:20 and he braced himself for a lecture from his drama coach, but said it would be worth it to him. He got the lecture but was allowed to go.

We picked him up. He ate and changed into his uniform in the car – baseball pants and his own t-shirt – he would be getting an All-Star jersey to wear over it! There was a moment of tension when we realized I’d forgotten his Yankees hat. I figured he could wear any hat from the car (the logo shouldn’t matter, this being the all-star game and not a regular team game – right?) or borrow one if worse came to worse. I let him and my husband off at the park entrance, and took the other kids to go find a parking spot.

By the time we arrived at the field, there was a problem. I thought it was the hat – had to be a Yankee hat. My husband was pouting but I solved that quickly – the assistant coach’s husband had on a Yankees cap and she took it off his head and offered it to J. No problem? “Yankee is Yankee” agreed the manager. Her son actually grabbed it and gave Jake his own little league Yankee hat and all was well, or so I thought. Then my husband took me aside to tell me what the real problem was.

Apparently, J was “never supposed to be” on the team. The assistant coach said she didn't find out until 1:17 PM that afternoon when the manager sent her the roster. She says she tried to call us, but got only a busy signal. Who gets a busy signal in this day and age? Besides, our caller ID log showed no calls from her. AND she has our cell numbers but did not call those either. But anyway -- even if she had called - who tells a kid, the day of the big game, that he is not actually in the big game?

His team members heard all the drama but J kept his cool. The daughter of the assistant coach (who is my daughter's new BFF, of course) even approached me to tell me "J is not playing tonight." I was trying to be calm but I was fuming.

Despite this, J had already put a jersey on. There was also some switching of jerseys due to size. The lineup was announced, he was batting sixth and would not be starting in the field but would switch in later. Someone, I guess, had not shown up, so there was a slot for him.

I got busy with the other kids, setting up chairs and getting them their food from the bags. My husband had already told me, quietly, that he had yelled and screamed – VERY UNLIKE HIM – when he found out what was going on. How do you do that to a kid? The manager was very calm in any case. He maintained that it was all a miscommunication and J was never supposed to be on the team.

Then there was commotion behind me. The final kid – a huge kid, the kind where you want to check his birth certificate – had shown up and his Dad was yelling about "Why doesn't he have a jersey?" and "Why isn't he he in the lineup?" I heard the manager telling the dad that the kid was late – it was already 6:01 PM and they were starting already – and the dad was making a stink. Next thing I know they are telling J to take off his jersey. But to my amazement, and pride, he didn’t. I tried to listen in without being obvious but in the end I just let things happen.

In any case, he was playing -- and when the fifth batter got out, ending the inning, he was set to lead off in the second. But when the Blues got up to bat again, he was scrubbed. Again he was told to take off the jersey, again he did not. The big kid batted in his place, wearing a Coach's jersey, and his dad was still yelling about "Where is the real jersey?"

J didn’t say a word to us, he sat in the dugout. Here is a kid who “wouldn’t say shit if he had a mouthful” and whose stubbornness sometimes pisses me off, and he was holding his ground without being fresh or snotty. Maybe he was told something encouraging out of my earshot, or maybe he was just hoping and hoping, but he waited it out.

I noticed the head of the LL was watching the game and I approached her. Actually I asked my husband to approach her but he said he wouldn’t know what to say. So I told her what was going on. She was concerned, asked if he had been in the field (which would mean he HAD to bat), but since he had not, there was no issue there. Her eyes seemed to say “Whaddayagonna do?” and she told us it was a matter for the commissioner. The coach came over and said HE was also really upset about the whole thing as he really wanted J in the game. She said that the manager and coach are supposed to be on the same page regarding all-star picks. And during this conversation, as my husband took over the talking, and I went to check on the baby, I realized J was out in center field. Maybe the manager saw us talking to her and didn't want an issue. Maybe he was going to put him out there all along. Who knows. But he was playing.

He got up to bat in the third inning and struck out. Three up, three down, he was the third out. But he was playing. He shrugged it off and went back in the field. The assistant coach wouldn’t look my way. I wouldn’t look at the manager.

He played the whole game. Our team was losing pretty badly but in the final inning, we rallied. And J got up to bat again. And this time, he HIT. A nice strong hit and he made it to first base. And on the next batter, he advanced to second. And on the NEXT batter, he ran and ran and scored a run and we were all beside ourselves. The team went on to score several more runs – we didn’t win, but we didn’t get trounced either.

And then the game was over and the manager was telling him he had to give back his jersey – it was for another kid. My husband was right in there – "He wore it, he should keep it." The manager said that the kid wearing the Coach's jersey had to give that to the Coach, and there were no extras because the sponsors need them, and that the J’s jersey had to go to a player who was actually on the team. Yes, he said that. J's jersey wouldn’t fit the big kid though – would it? No, but everyone had switched around to accommodate him and would now be switching back.

He took off the jersey. He was perfectly polite. He told us he didn’t need the jersey. He had played and played well. He was proud of himself. He only wanted to go home and put his pictures on Facebook. I told him I was proud of him – not only for the way he played but for the way he stood his ground and did so with class. Better than I would have handled it, especially at age eleven. Home safe


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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Just some cute things Brandon has said over the last few weeks

(while watching Batman a/k/a "Batman and Rob-nan" on TV)
"Why does Batman have girl panties?"

(while carrying around and pumping a ball inflator)
"It sounds like seltzer."

Last night:
Brandon: Mom how was your day?
Brandon: Is that because you didn't see me and you missed me so much?

In the car, while hubby and I were talking

After a fight with his brother that involved a plastic dog -- apparently Jake was calling the dog by the wrong name
(In tears) "Jake is confusing my dog!"

Mumbling something about Christmas and getting lots of presents - I'll admit I didn't hear the beginning-
Me: You know, our family celebrates Chanukah, so we really don't get presents for Christmas.
Brandon: I'm not TALKING about CHANUKAH. I'm TALKING about CHRISTMAS.
Me: I know, but I want you to know, you already got your presents because of Chanukah.

My favorite of recent weeeks was the reaction to the Chanukah presents... whether a toy or a hat and gloves, his reaction was the same:
Ahh to be three years old!

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On the Street Where You Live

I guess I'm not much of a blogger, for reals. There's lots I've been meaning to write about, but I never actually put pen to paper (or hands to keyboard) and do it. Today, though, I need to vent about something.

My husband has been wanting a GPS for quite some time. I was very resistant because I don't like the whole idea of them. I think they contribute to the dumbing-down of society. I think people should learn to read maps and know how to get around. But after getting lost and engaging in yet another argument (and another and another), I finally decided to buy him one for Chanukah.

I gave it to him on Friday the 3rd. I even used it the other day and I admit, playing around with the different voices and options is even kinda fun.

Then today he calls me and says the super rang his bell to tell him someone broke our window. Or more accurately, smashed it with a rock. And bam, no more GPS.

It just makes me so angry. The unit itself wasn't high-end, it was less than $120 with the tax. The broken minivan window will set us back a few hundred dollars (we have a $500 comprehensive deductible and we don't have full glass protection). The aggravation of filing a police report, finding a glazier, cleaning the mess - priceless. Did I mention it makes me so damn angry?

I try to teach my kids right from wrong. I try to embrace my husband's philosophy that "anything that can be replaced with money isn't really that important." But I already spent a buttload of money this season -- including "Winter Wishes" gifts for underprivileged children, which my husband dropped off by using the GPS to find the facility, by the way -- and now I have to shell out more because some piece of sh*t decided to rob me?

In desperation, I called my credit card company, which has a Purchase Assurance plan, that reimburses for stolen items if it is less than 90 days from the purchase date. Oh joy!!!! Hurrah!!! What? Not so fast. It does not cover items stolen "from the inside or outside of a vehicle." GREAT. (I am going to try to file a claim anyway - it couldn't hurt.)

So now the husband, who is home in 409 with not one, not two, but THREE sick children (youngest has a random fever, middle has a tummy ache, cough and sniffles, oldest puked this morning) is dealing with the NYPD, the insurance company, and who knows what else, and I am here at work trying to channel my anger into this post.

This isn't the first time I've been robbed in the neighborhood. Our old car, a 1996 Oldsmobile, was broken into several times in the late 90s. The thieves would steal the computer chip that controlled the car... apparently they could sell it for a quick $100 but it cost us $400+ to replace each time. It was stolen at least 3 or 4 times between 1997 and 1999. Finally they took the whole car (not off our block though; it was parked on a busy street in another neighborhood) off our hands. It was found a week later, not by the NYPD, but by someone who had noticed it parked on a dead end street for several days. He had found a receipt with our names, and called us to let us know. The thing was stripped and a total loss. On our current van, we've had the driver's side mirror stolen a few times, as well as the radio antenna.

Besides than the car, there's been other incidents. A few years ago, I had cash stolen from inside my apartment. I am 99.9 percent sure it was my young neighbor, but I couldn't prove it -- and his mom said he didn't do it -- but that's a story for another day. Oh, and just the other day, we had a package delivered and left in front of our door - my husband left it out in the hall while he brought the kids in, and when he went out to get it a little later, it was gone.

So tell me - what am I supposed to do with this helpless, angry feeling? How am I supposed to teach my kids any values? And on the flip, how can I teach them not to get hung up on material things, when I am so hung up on this right now?

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Monday, April 26, 2010

To Mom or not to Mom?

My son J is playing Little League this year. Having turned 10 in December, he is in the Minors, which here consists of 9 & 10 year olds. He had not played last year, but did play 2 years ago. Of course Minors is very different from 7 & 8s; some of these 10 year olds are big and strong and a few show a hint of fuzzy facial hair. The pitching is faster and harder; the stakes are higher; there are playoffs as well.

J is a decent player. He can get a good hit to the infield, he waits for his pitch and doesn't swing wildly, he listens to the base coaches and he makes strong attempts in the outfield. He is short, but not the shortest on the team. With 9 plate appearances he is batting .400 with an on-base percentage of .667 including getting hit by a pitch in Game 1.

The roster has, I think, 12 kids... the coach can put 9 in the outfield and let 10 bat in any given inning. The thing is, they have played 4 games so far, and my J has sat out for portions of three. In Game 1, he batted the whole game, but was only in the field for the second half. Game 2, he again batted the whole game, but was only in the field for the first half. Game 3, he played the whole game. Game 4, he played the first 3 innings, then was out for the second three (no at-bats or fielding).

So... with 1/4 of the regular season down already, I am unhappy with this pattern. With 12 kids and 4 games, should he have really been out for portions of 3 of them, when other kids haven't sat out at all?

I don't want to be "that mom." But he is frustrated and sad. When he brought it up after Game 4, I told him I would speak to the coach if he wanted me to, and likewise would stay out of it if he preferred. At first he said he wanted me to talk to him, but later said he would do it himself. His prepared speech is simple - "I was hoping you could put me in the whole game this time, since I have sat out a few times already." I suggested he wait before speaking - maybe it wouldn't be an issue the next game. Intelligent and thinking ahead, he would rather speak up early, because once the lineup is made, they won't change it. He was very disappointed that Sunday's games were rained out, as I think he had already psyched himself up.

Look, I know coaches want to win. I know that. But I also know that kids don't want to sit on the bench (not to mention that parents who pay for Little League should get to see their child play more than a few innings a week). Again, my son is far from the worst player on the team. The assistant coach told him several times on Saturday what a great job he did -- he only batted once, but he hit a double and then scored from second; he also made a good stop and throw from center field. Does that mean he will play him next time, or was it only empty reassurance?

So what do you think, parents? Should I stay out of it? Next game is Tuesday evening. I will be at work and will probably not get there until the game is half over, if at all. My husband thinks we should stay out of it as parents (but let J speak up if he chooses). Thoughts?

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010


A few weeks ago I taught B about Eskimo kisses. He can't quite say it; instead he says, "Gimmie Es-ko-mix."

I don't think I am ever going to correct him.

By the way, that link taught me something new about Eskimo kisses, which are not exactly what I always thought.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Beautiful Mind

My daughter is smart. My son is smart too, but I am only realizing now just how smart my daughter is. Since J was always advanced, and S is three years younger, it seemed natural that she was always a little behind him. But now that she is 7 and reading - nay, DEVOURING- books on her own, it is easy to see just how intelligent she is. And I'm so proud.

Of course, I was smart once too. I got told constantly, through elementary school, how smart I was. Back then I was always jockeying for position of "smartest" with a boy, Tony, who was my friend and rival... but I knew I was smart. I loved to read (still do) and was a fast reader (still am). I got 100s on my tests. I got honors. I won the spelling bee (though not the science fair - never liked science).

And then I went to Junior High. I was still smart, but there were other smart kids. And I got lazy. And in High School I discovered friends, and hanging out, and music videos... and I was still smart, but I was too cool to let people know. I got good grades when I wanted to, and bad grades when I didn't. I slacked off, but managed to ace my standardized tests (Regents, PSATs, SATs). I went to a great school but did not get into my top choice. In college I was happy, I loved my friends and classes, but I got lazy in pursuing a career.

And here I am today. I'm in a mediocre job, where I'm not even important enough to be kept on the payroll full time. I still love to read but I'm not doing the great things that I'd guess my mom & dad expected from me as a child. And I wonder how to keep my son & daughter (and the tiny terror, when it's time) from falling into the same trap.

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