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What is kid-friendly?

Yesterday’s weather was beautiful and my neighbor (and fellow apartment mom) and I took our kids to the playground and stayed until the sun faded.  We met up with another apartment mom from another apartment building near ours.

I asked them to tell me what their biggest apartment challenge was with the kids.  And I’ll be writing more on that.  But I learned that the other building is more kid-friendly than ours.  They have some big bonuses, like a small playground and a big pool.  The pool is an awesome bonus but I want to talk about the playground.

Having a playground is not as big a cost/responsibility as having a pool.  It gives neighboring families a gathering place outdoors and kids easy access to much-needed exercise.  You don’t have to get in the car and drive somewhere.  This maximizes the actual play-time:  If I have less than one hour, I’m not going to make a trip to the town park.  But if it was a short walk from my door, we’d be there a lot more.  I’ve been told by one or two homeowners with play sets in their backyards that their kids still want to go where there will be other kids to play with them.

Our building has space on the property for a play set and in recent years they removed a dilapidated swing set that did appear unsafe, but it was never replaced.  The message is clear:  don’t play here.

Tell me about your building:  What do you think is kid-friendly about it?

 

Most homeowners I know prefer summer to winter because their air conditioning (if they use it) is cheaper than their heating cost.  My apartments have, until now, always included heat and I felt that I had the advantage in the winter months, with the exception of having to shovel off my car after snowstorms.   Someone else plows the parking lot and shovels the walkways.  This year, we are paying an additional $75 a month from September through April to cover the fuel costs after the long winter of 2010-2011.

Does your rent include utilities or seasonal expenses?  Which ones?

Roommates

In Junior High a classmate of mine lived in a 6-unit apartment building.  I am not sure if her parents owned the building.  But in her family’s unit, her bedroom was an alcove off of the living room.  She shared this bedroom with an older sister, brother, and an aunt.  Yes, really.  I had never before been in a home where so many shared such a small space.  I felt deprived because I shared a room with my mom, while my brother had his own room (because he was a boy and couldn’t share with mom).

Right now my kids share a room and I share a room with my husband.  I would love if my kids each had their own rooms, even teeny-tiny ones, just separate.  I know a few families who have enough bedrooms for each kid and a playroom, too.

How many rooms are in your apartment, and how many people live there?

 

 

Powerless

You probably know from the news, if not from personal experience, that our area was hit with a freakish October snowstorm that resulted in a lot of damage and power loss.  Ours lasted a little less than 2 days but those were two cold days.

We live on the 3rd floor and coming and going was a bit of a pain especially when the emergency lights in the hallways and stairs expired.  But the folks at the top had it worse – 7 flights.   Over all we didn’t miss the electricity much – it was a bit relaxing to have a reason to go to bed early.  But I sure missed the heat.  I thought we might have the advantage of being insulated by the apartments above, below and next to us, and maybe we did – but it was COLD inside anyway.  During the day we went out to get warm(er).  Being in an apartment house the reserve of hot water was used up immediately.  I hope someone enjoyed a hot shower and wasn’t running his dishwasher.

One thing I am grateful for is that we were out at a birthday party the day of the storm and it seemed foolish – I really wanted to be in my own home.  When we returned after a challenging drive home, we discovered that a huge tree branch had come down on the cars that were parked in the spaces next to ours (we have assigned outdoor spots) and had we been home our car would have gotten damaged, too.

snow days

These school closings are killing me.  I actually like winter, despite not being an outdoor person (or perhaps because of it – I am content to stay inside.)  My son, however, is not.  It seems that when the schools close, so do all the places you could bring your kid.

I am running out of patience in the same way the town is running out of money dealing with these snowstorms one right after the other.

Working moms have it even harder.  If you think that you want to be home with your kids when they’re very young and will return to work when they’re in school, keep in mind that a hard winter can mean multiple days of missed work – school closings, sick kids, cars that won’t start.  And if you do make it to work, you more than likely have to get up earlier or get home later, both tricky when you are depending on childcare programs:  Can the kids be dropped off earlier?   Is the school bus arriving late, so you can’t get on your way on time?  Is traffic messed up?

Moving to a warmer part of the country is becoming very appealing to me.

Usually I appreciate apartment living more in the winter.  Less property to shovel.  Less expensive to heat.  But with a four year old and two year old, I wish I had a basement & attic, so they could have a change of scenery while stuck inside.  And a backyard, so they could play outside without having to get in the car and drive to a park (especially on days when the roads aren’t safe.)  And a garage, so that said car would not have to be shoveled out, after being plowed in.

How do you manage your snow days?

Night Shift

My husband works at night, and he’s been doing that nearly as long as we’ve been married and before I was even pregnant with our first child (we have 2).  Right now, the kids are fighting & screaming right outside our bedroom door, and I’m trying to ignore them.  He tells me it’s usually me he hears yelling at them, more than them in the first place.  I don’t think that is the way he’s feeling at this particular moment.

Our whole family is affected by the night shift.  I know police & firemen and others who have to work the night shift deal with similar issues, but they also usually have a rotation of sorts.  My husband ONLY works at night and they’re long nights.  Even though he technically doesn’t work weekends, our weekend is really just Sunday, because he sleeps most of Saturday.  Our friends wonder why we’re so unmotivated to socialize, but between 2 small kids and his backwards schedule, it’s an ordeal to be social at the customary days and times (Friday & Saturday nights.)

Even after 5 years, we haven’t figured out how to make this work.  The biggest challenge after the job itself is that we live in an apartment, which not only means we have to deal with our own noise, but noise from the people above and occasionally below.  It also means that there’s no spare bedrooms, so I am exiled from my bedroom when he’s home sleeping.  Not that I have much opportunity for sleeping, but it would be nice to be able to change my shirt or shoes or something off my dresser when I think of it.  It also makes the apartment feel even smaller to have one room closed off most of the day.

It’s also hard to be alone every night with the kids.  I am awake for them all day long, and then if they don’t sleep all night, there’s only one of you to manage it.  This was particularly rough while my daughter was a newborn and my son wasn’t in preschool.  In fact, I would have sold an organ to have him attend an afternoon preschool session.  Our current town doesn’t provide preschool for everyone, and the private programs are all morning sessions.  Afternoons around here are difficult:  Husband should be sleeping, daughter should be napping, I should be gearing up for the evening mom shift and son should be at school, but instead, he is being rowdy and nobody is sleeping.

If we could go back in time, I would know that being a stay at home mom in this circumstance was not the best choice.  I should have kept working, our son would have been in daycare, where he would have had more space to play & socialize, he would watch less TV and our home wouldn’t look like a train wreck 4 times a day.  As for kiddo number 2, maybe she would be here, or maybe not.   Perhaps my husband would have been able to find daytime work if he wasn’t the only paycheck we were counting on.

Is anyone else out there muddling through (or perhaps succeeding) with being a night-shift family?

Green Guilt

UPDATE:  We moved from the apartment I describe below to our current apartment in June of 2010.

Oh, to be green.  Living in an apartment seems make the most common ideas impossible.  I try to remember that we are already practicing communal living to a certain extent; that counts!

I do have to let go of the following common eco-suggestions for the time being:

Grow my own food and compost pile While I have taken over the patch of bare earth adjoining our patio for flowers, I do not grow food for several reasons.  I have come across a lot of undesirable, unnatural material while digging, and fear for the condition of the soil.  We also have animal visitors, both wild and domestic.  For this reason also I haven’t started a compost pile, and I won’t invest in a closed compost bin just yet. Also, I have a shady garden, not great for growing food.

Purchase energy-efficient appliances We rent and so live with the refrigerator, oven, dishwasher and air conditioners that were here before us.  I’m certain the landlord isn’t worried about their energy efficiency because we pay for our electricity.  The worst offenders in my opinion are the air conditioners – they’re through-the-wall units, noisy and you manually adjust the temperatures.  Oh, and our preschooler can turn them on and off, so it will mysteriously grow hot in the summer or cold in the winter.

Line-dry clothes A friend teases me because there is always laundry hanging in our apartment.  It’s true.  Besides saving money and energy, I don’t want my clothes to shrink so I hang dry most of them.  But I would love to have an outdoor clothesline.

Storage I am a huge fan of Amy Dacyczyn and the Tightwad Gazette – it is one of the books that changed my perspective and helped get us out of debt.  But as an apartment dweller, I can’t save everything just in case I can use it later.  In fact, sometimes I can’t save things that I know I will use later; it is often less expensive to replace an item than to pay for the space it takes, whether that space is a separate storage unit, a rented garage or the most valuable of real estate: my apartment’s closets.

Eliminate disposable products It’s tough to replace disposable products with washable products when you don’t have your own washer and dryer.  It costs me $2/load to wash or dry and I already have about 2 loads of clothes, 1 load of underwear/towels, and diapers every other day.  Yes, we use cloth diapers (more about that in a later post).  But replacing tissues, paper towels, disinfecting wipes, etc. with cloth means making yet more laundry.  Also, where do I keep the “dirty” things until there’s enough to make a complete load of like items?  In an apartment, the default laundry room is our bedroom and I’m running out of room for laundry bins!

Next time I’ll write about the things I can do.  But for now, what green goals have you  put on hold while you’re in an apartment?

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