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Learning To Think Big

One of Maddie’s biggest current
concerns is her inability to recognize our house from the outside;
every day when we walk to the (empty) park she’ll turn around
at the corner and say anxiously, “Which one is ours
again?” We count down from the end of the street, talk about
the “Welcome Home” banner strung up over the door, the
colors of the bushes, and so on. Once she’s got it in her
mind we head on off to the park for our play time. But then the
whole way back she’s scanning the street – “Is
this our street? Is that our house?” until she sees it.

A few days ago, we rounded the corner and our house came into view.
Once she identified it I could tell she was really looking it over
and she said, wide-eyed, “Our house is really big!” I
laughed, but know exactly what she means: we’ve been folding
ourselves into what in New York was considered a very luxurious 900
square feet for several years now, and living life, well, larger,
takes some getting used to.

In fact, we spent the first few days
huddled refugee-like on the second floor: our stuff hadn’t
arrived on the van, the kitchen’s a construction zone, and
the painters were finishing up, so we were sort of naturally
relegated to the upper floor where we’d borrowed a microwave
and a mini-fridge. Truthfully, though, we’d probably have
stayed up there no matter what – I felt more comfortable with
everyone on the same floor, where I could hear and see them. After
our moving van arrived we were forced to venture into the rest of
the house just to start unpacking, and we’re gradually
getting used to the space.

My personal favorite? Cora’s bedroom. Every night I’m
giddy with excitement over the fact that my baby is asleep in a
crib and I get to sleep in a WHOLE SEPARATE ROOM from her.
We’ve spent the past three months either on a couch in the
living room or on an aero bed in an empty apartment, and that first
night after our furniture arrived I crowed, “I get to sleep
in a big-girl bed!”

We’re having to make up new rules as we go here, since some
problems we just never encountered before. For example, Maddie is
not allowed to be on a floor unless there’s an adult on the
level at the same time. Once we get boxes unpacked and babyproofing
installed we’ll probably loosen that up, but for now
she’s learned to ask permission before going up or
downstairs, and to wait for someone to go with her. And this is a
bit of a hardship on my kid, since she’s discovered she LOVES
the stairs.

Which leads to New Rule # 2- no playing with toys on the stairs!
Brian almost broke his neck the first day when he started to step
off down the stairs and discovered a row of Maddie’s various
Elmos, each one neatly “put to sleep” on a different
step with a blanket (or napkin or trash bag) tucked around him.
Which led to a long talk with Maddie about appropriate play in
appropriate places . . . truthfully, I saw the Elmos all stretched
out, and it was kinda creepy, their buggy eyes staring emptily at
the ceiling.

We still haven’t let the cat into most of the house yet;
until construction is finished we’re keeping her confined to
the master bedroom (which is bigger than our old living room), the
master bath (which is bigger than our old bedroom), and the master
closet (which is bigger than our old bathroom). It’s a tough
life, but she’s managing to put on a good show of not caring.

Having so much more space means we’ve also needed to start
zoning toys a bit more rigorously. I’ve always kept certain
toys for certain rooms to prevent having toy anarchy in the house,
but now we’re needing to crack down and keep it under tight
control; if Maddie’s dollhouse pieces get lost in the rest of
the house they’re never coming back, so she’s quickly
learning it’s in her own best interest to go along with the

And Maddie herself is quickly adjusting to the extra space as well,
though she still seems intimidated by it all. She’ll call out
for me and the note of panic will creep pretty quickly into her
voice if she can’t figure out where on the floor I am right
away. Just the other day she was standing in the kitchen and said,
“Mommy?” “Right here in the dining room!” I
called from an adjacent room.

Quiet, then –

“How do I get there?”

But she’s getting it, and finding “her” space for
things: her special spot in the front window to sit and put her
shoes on, her special place on the bottom stairs to lay things she
wants to take up later, her favorite spot to store her water
bottle, and so on. I know it’s just a matter of time before
she’s happily bouncing off walls without a second thought.

Of course, “spacious” is a matter of perspective
– we tell friends in New York about our new house and they
say, “It’s huge!” We describe it to people here
in Texas and they nod thoughtfully and say, “That’s a
good starter home.” Truthfully, it’s more space than we
need: lots of families survive just fine on less square footage
than we had in New York, and on a recent trip to Ikea I walked into
one of their sample “Live in 400 Square Feet” areas and
felt almost comforted by all the close walls. But I think
we’re all quickly adjusting to having more breathing room
around us, more leg room between the sofa and the coffee table,
simply more living room.

Which leads to the flipside: more carpet to vacuum, more trash cans
to empty, more toilets to clean . . .

Hmm, that New York space is not looking to bad right now after


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