Dodging Trains

The bedroom of our new apartment overlooks the house’s modest backyard, followed by a small municipal parking lot, then by the elevated platform for the N/Q subway line. Trains come and go about every two minutes or so, all day. Seven-month-old Maggie is riveted.

This presents a challenge: We change her diaper on our bed, which is about four feet from the window. When Maggie hears a train coming, she immediately transitions from normal squirmy to championship-caliber squirmy, flipping over and around to see the shiny trains rumbling in to the station. Suddenly every step of wiping and diapering is free run 3.0 v4 interspersed with having to twist her tiny body back to face-up.

Trains triple not only the time needed to change her, but also the chances of spreading a mess.

Thus, changing diapers has become a task of opportunity. If Maggie is not upset about the secretion she’s sitting in, I am behooved by waiting for the station to be trainless. Once the tracks are quiet, I rush her into the bedroom and try to swap diapers before the next arrival. It’s a race against the New York City transit system that I rarely win.

So I’ve learned to change diapers faster. This helps not just with my train dodging, but when I’m busy with work, too.

My process:

  • I calmly explain that Daddy will win almost all of these little battles, so she may as well cooperate. She smiles at me and giggles.
  • I keep the essentials on the bed throughout the day. This would drive my wife nuts, as she prefers household items to be properly stowed at all times; she’d be great on a sailboat. However, having the diapers, wipes and A&D on the bed and ready to be used saves me precious seconds.
  • I give Maggie a job. Her hands are like kittens, roshe run curious and impossible to herd. If left to find her own interests, she would grab everything she can, including the dirty diaper and a handful of vitamins in goop form. So I give her a toy. Or I hand her a diaper with a request that she hold it (“Can you help Daddy?”). With her attention (i.e., her hands and mouth) briefly focused,  I can work faster. And I can work cleaner, which translates into working even faster than faster.
  • I withdraw the required number of wipes before opening the dirty diaper. This helps expedite the cleaning when the mess is exposed, reducing the odds that she gets a hand or foot in it.
  • Rather than placing a new diaper to the side, I open it and slide it under Maggie before removing the old one. That means that once she’s clean, the replacement is already in place. Also, if Maggie decides she’s not done doing whatever she did, the bed is protected. Again, any measure for cleanliness potentially saves time.
  • If Maggie is particularly squirmy, I can throw a light blanket or T-shirt over her face for a faux game of peek-a-boo, which usually buys a few seconds of stillness. This also works on alligators.

Usually before this is all over a train has arrived anyway, and despite my best and quickest efforts, Maggie is rolling over to observe it.

But sometimes I succeed.  Then we can just calmly watch the train together, as daddy and daughter.

Bigger and Better Places

Well, we’re moving. We’re staying in New York City, but moving clear across the avenue, away from 33rd Street and over to 32nd.

Yep, we’re relocating to one block away.

Of course, traversing a block in NYC can put a few thousand people between your old place and your new. Moving a few blocks away can put you in a different world.

From the outside, city dwellers can appear a bit odd in their moving habits. We move a quarter mile in one direction, or a half mile in another, and talk about how different our new life is. We’re not exaggerating.

In NYC, everyone’s interpretation of their neighborhood is the only-somewhat imaginary boundary that contains their needs: pizza parlor, Mexican restaurant, sushi bar, good coffee, grocery, decent produce market, dry cleaner, hardware store, laundromat, hair salon, etc. Aside from work, there isn’t much need to travel outside that small circle (or rectangle — or it could be a trapezoid if you live near Broadway). So migrating a few blocks puts you into a thoroughly new mix of services, and thus people.

However, none of that is our impetus for moving, or we’d be going four blocks farther. Our pertinent issue is space. For three years my wife and I have shared 350 square feet. To those accustomed to roshe run flywire the country or the ’burbs (as I was until 2010), that sounds intolerably claustrophobic. But there’s a saying here — in NYC, your apartment is your bedroom, the city your living room. The sentiment behind that is accurate; you spend so much time outside your abode that a small living space doesn’t feel so confining.

Still, we are welcoming the opportunity to upgrade from 350 to 550. Now we’ll have room for a toilet.

Really, we won’t be adding much stuff. To our additional 200 square feet we’ll be bringing only 16 square feet of new furniture. One of those items is a dresser, the other a crib. Both will serve to more comfortably accommodate the one person who was not in our equation when we cohabited our current place: 6-month-old Maggie.

So what are our plans for the other 184 new square feet? For one, my wife and I will be able to do household things without bumping into each other. I mean that literally. We cannot cook meals and wash dishes simultaneously, due simply to the laws of physics. As for Maggie, she will be able to roll longer distances, and she can learn to walk in more than 3-step increments.

Additionally, we will have an actual kitchen, rather than a living-room-infringing kitchenette. I will not need to cook, eat, work and relax in the same room. I will not need to move my desk chair to open the refrigerator, nor move the microwave to open my cabinet.

My wife will be able to fall asleep in a bedroom that is down the hall from the living room (as opposed to being essentially attached to it) while insulated from the noise of me clacking on the computer when working late, or from the sound of the TV while I watch the end of an extra-innings ballgame. Moreover, the larger bedroom can house a real crib, zx 630 allowing Maggie to graduate from sleeping in a Pack’N’Play.

Part of this, I know, is absurd. Before I lived with Molly I was the sole inhabitant of 1,200 square feet in Connecticut. Now I’m excited about sharing less than half of that with a child and another adult.

It’s all about perspective. And I should have more of that when I can’t view my entire living space from one chair. I should have 184 more square feet of perspective — or, rather, 61.3 when we divide it.