Tuesday, December 23, 2008

From This Moment Forward...

The Brooklyn Baby Family

Opening her first Chanukah gift

Feeding herself, of course!

Irritated at us invading her privacy!

Perfection, pure and simply!

If you know me at all, you know that beneath this Magic Shell exterior of off-color jokes and snide remarks lies a super-gooey, cheesy center of schmaltziness. Wow. I just invented a food that involves chicken fat, cheese and chocolate magic shell. Sounds like something Elvis would have eaten.
So, I'm posting this letter I wrote to Stella. It is so sincere and sweet that you might get diagnosed with diabetes after reading it, but hopefully it's worth that.
Enjoy, and try not to make fun of me too much!
Dearest Stella,
As this year draws to a close, I find myself really thinking about our relationship and how incredibly lucky I am to have you in my life. I've tried really hard to be a good mom to you, and it hasn't always been easy. There's been little sleep, little time for myself, and lots of tears. 98% of the time, I'm proud of the job I do, but 2% of the time, I lose my patience and get really grumpy. I've always told myself that my irritated tone of voice, my bickering with your father, my rolling eyes weren't great, but at least you won't remember it, and I will reform these ways before you can.
But then, last night, as I was giving you your bath, I saw you wriggle away when I went to wash your armpit, and I swear I remember feeling uncomfortable when my own armpit was washed. I have no idea how old I was, but I couldn't have been very old. They say you don't really develop your memory until age 3 or so, but I swear I'm remember more and more things from very early ages.
And then I realized that it doesn't matter whether or not your remember it, it's important to be the person I want to be in a year right now, right this moment. So, for 2009 and beyond, here is what I pledge:
From this moment forward, I will be the mom you deserve, not the best mom I can be, or better than some other mommies out there, or as good as the mommies I read about in the magazines. You deserve a whole other echelon of goodness from your mommy, and that is what I'll be.
From this moment forward, I'll try to imagine being you, try to figure out why you're cross or unhappy, try to figure out what would make you feel safe or secure, try to provide for your needs before you even know you need them.
From this moment forward, I'll also try to take care of myself as best I can so I don't get to a point of desperation where I feel resentful for taking care of you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I'll go for more walks, take a night off here and there (because your father is amazing at taking care of you, anyway, and you adore him), take a shower each morning, eat well and exercise. You deserve a mommy who feels good about herself.
From this moment forward, I will focus on the forest, not all the little trees that stand in its way. Life will continue to throw challenges my way, but as long as I focus on how truly blessed I am to have such an incredible husband and such an amazing daughter, I can defeat anything!
From this moment forward, I will revel in your love every moment of the day. Through poopy diapers, constant teething, the 5th nursing session in the middle of the night, the fit thrown when I try to put your hat on, the 3rd day in a row we must stay in due to inclement weather, I will thank my lucky stars to have you in my life.
And from this moment forward, when we have a good week, a good day, a good hour, I will relish it like no other and expect nothing else. I will live in the moment with you. There is no better place to be.
Your mommy,

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Virtual Nurse-In!

A much younger Stella (4 months) chowing down!

Mmmkay...so Facebook has decided that photos of moms breastfeeding are obscene. I didn't realize that it was obscene to feed my child, but pictures of teenage girls' coinslots and cleavage are A-OK!

To show Facebook what a back-asswards, misogynistic piece of bull they're being, won't you join me for the big-time Nurse-In on December 27th?

You don't have to be a booby-mama to do so! Just put any picture of any mama nursing (yourself, your wife, your friend, your mom, a celebrity) as your profile pic on December 27th to show them who's boss! I'm going to post a much more risque shot on that day, but you can borrow my artsy one above if you'd like!

Boobies -- UNITE!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pouring, Not Raining

A short, happy break from teething!
Where have I been, you ask? Too consumed with actual life to deal with my cyber alter-ego. I do apologize.
So much has happened, and there's lots I'd love to write. However, Stella's nap will most likely end any moment now, which means my blog must be short. These days I constantly hear the Mission Impossible theme music playing in my head as I race to clean, return calls, check emails, shower, eat lunch, or drink enough water to not be dehydrated while her majesty naps.
But can't you do any of those things while she's awake, you ask?
Well, in a normal week, I can slip in one or two things. But, you see, my amazing little girl is obsessed with people. She could take or leave most any toy you give her; she wants constant human interaction. Meaning if I put her in her exersaucer and try to do dishes, I am met with longing looks, cries of "momma" and "nee nee" (her term for nursing), and sometimes tears.
So, even in a normal week, my day is spent on the floor playing, on the couch nursing, on walks with Stella in the Ergo or stroller, and on the bed trying to get her to nap.
However, this has not been a normal week. Stella has been teething like crazy. (What I thought was an ear infection in the last entry was actually, thankfully, "horrible teething," as her pediatrician put it.) She has a million teeth all pushing against her gums and causing her nagging pain, but as of yet none have managed to poke through and bring her any amount of relief.
She drools constantly, has run a slight temperature, doesn't want to nap during the day or sleep at night, is cranky and unsettled, and wants to nurse literally nonstop. I actually have a hickey on one of my nipples. This is a first for me.
Add to that the intense cold she got this week, and we have a recipe for misery and insanity. Buckets of snot which were all sucked out by me and my handy dandy nasal aspirator, a constantly running humidifier (and wet floors), taking her into steamy shower after steamy shower, all while she screamed or coughed or sneezed or just looked completely wiped out and unhappy: this was the meat of my day.
So, sorry for the lapse in blogging. Again, the clock is ticking and I feel as if this blog could self-destruct at any moment, so a brief update for you:
*We had a great time visiting my dad, brothers, and niece in Las Vegas. Stella loved the lights and intensity, and was a crowd-pleaser, as always.
*The lead paint situation remains unsettled. I really don't want to get into details in a public forum, but the upswing is that the cogs are in motion to repair it in a safe way. The downside is there is some hostility and unhappiness involved.
*We are finally finishing Phase Two of moving in. Phase one was actually putting stuff in here and unpacking. Phase Two is decorating it with what we have currently and hanging window treatments (instead of the gorgeous garbage bags we were using to cover the windows.) Phase Three will be adding furnishings that need to be bought but for which we currently do not have the funds.
*I am picking up more tutoring jobs which helps both my mental health and our personal financial crisis.
*We are preparing to visit my family in Kentucky for the holidays and I can't wait!
Well, I hear her majesty stirring, so naptime is at its close. As 2009 approaches, you may wish for more money, lost weight, no more cigarettes, a more positive attitude. Really, all I want for Christmas are Stella's friggin' teeth.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On Being an Adult

Momma Bear and Baby Bear

On Being an Adult:

You discover the chipping paint in your apartment contains lead.

You cry for about a day, mop everything multiple times, wash your baby's toys, and try not to imagine lead dust coating every inch of everything she's continually putting in her mouth.

You and your spouse spend most free moments on the phone with apartment managers, doctors, lawyers, health department employees to see how to resolve this.

But life doesn't stop during this.

You discover that many members of your family are having major health concerns.

You, yourself, are really behind in doctor's appointments but not sure how to make them with a baby in tow.

Your baby looks funny but you always worry that she looks funny so you tell yourself it's her vaccinations from last week just screwing with her.

She stops napping, so you have to scramble to find a way to do normal and necessary household chores (and cease showering and eating regular meals for a few days).

She also stops sleeping, so you spend most nights nursing and rocking and passing out for 10 minute stretches before doing it all over again.

You speak to a doctor and realize she probably has an ear infection. Diagnosed 3 days before a plane trip. You hope when you take her later today they can give her some helpful medicine. You try not to curse yourself too much for ignoring the symptoms.

The car needs to be moved for alternate side of the street parking but it's during your doctor appointment today so you'll just have to pay for a ticket. Even though finances are REALLY tight right now.

You have to finish buying and prepping all the food so you can make a small (but delicious) Thanksgiving feast on Thursday. You also have to find time to pack for your trip to Las Vegas to visit your dad, brothers, and niece. You have no idea how this will happen unless Stella is able to sleep tonight.

You've got to stop blogging while Stella plays in her exersaucer, but you feel disconnected from the world and want to put off getting her ready to go out in the rain.

You actually understand those commercials where aching people reach longingly for their Advil.

But then...

Then you realize that your daughter is saying "momma," and you never knew any word could sound so incredibly beautiful and make your heart do somersaults!

You are excited about going to Las Vegas and showing Stella even more family who adore her.

You are so lucky to be able to afford a delicious Thanksgiving meal and to have a roof over your head (even if it has some lead paint underneath that roof).

You have so much to be thankful for, and you have to realize that being an adult means constantly juggling responsibilities and concerns while also following your new mantra:

Be Grateful, Be Present.

In fact, maybe you should write that on a piece of paper and hang it in every room. Or tattoo it on your arm like the guy in Memento.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Staying Afloat in a Sinking Economy

Our family economy began to plummet long before the stock market fell. Neither Dave nor I ever brought in a large income, and we knew that when we had kids we wanted one of us to be home with that child for at least the first year. So now we're supporting 3 people on half of what we used to use to support 2.

Believe it or not, we're doing it. And it's not that hard (save for months like this one when we moved and just got back from a trip). Here are some things that have helped us.

1. Make a budget and stick to it. We have a certain amount we can spend on food each week. If we spend less than that, the leftover money goes in a "takeout" pot. When we've saved enough in the "takeout" pot, we can order takeout.
2. We only order takeout when we've saved up enough. That usually means 2 times a month. Otherwise, we cook. (This is good for your weight, also.)
3. We use cloth diapers and make as much of our own baby food as possible. I can't tell you how much those two things really help.
4. We make more food than we can eat for dinner and eat the leftovers for lunch. We also have one leftover night each week (I stole that from my thrifty, organized sis). This also helps with that guilt you have when you're throwing out perfectly good food that you should have eaten.
5. We have 2 - 3 vegetarian nights each week. Vegetarian food is much cheaper and often much better for your health.
6. We make a menu of all the food we plan to eat in the coming week and then create a shopping list. We use as many coupons as we can find to help us both develop our menu and choose brands. This idea was also stolen from my sister (thanks, Nora).
7. Finally, since we used to be takeout FIENDS, we've started cooking more international foods at home to satisfy our cravings. You'd be surprised how easy many of those dishes are, and of course if you make it yourself you can control the fat content, etc. I'm going to start sharing some of my favorites, because although I don't yet write my own recipes, I'm a pro at adapting ones I find to include ingredients I can actually find.

Below is my adapted recipe for Channa Masala, my favorite Indian dish. If you're outside of the NYC Metro Area, you may have some trouble finding the spices, but do look around for them. This is so cozy and delicious, it's worth it!

Channa Masala

1 T. Vegetable oil
2 medium onions – minced
1 clove garlic – minced
1 T. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. tumeric
6 T. chopped tomatoes (about one small can -- make sure to get unseasoned)
1 cup water
2 15 oz. cans chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1 tsp. tandoori masala powder
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garam masala powder
½ tsp. salt
½ lemon – juiced
2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. chili powder

Heat oil under medium high heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until beginning to brown.

Turn heat to medium. Add coriander, cumin, cayenne and tumeric and stir.

Add tomatoes. Cook until tomatoes are lightly browned.

Add chickpeas and water and stir. Turn the heat up to medium high so you get a slight bubble.

Add tandoori masala, paprika, garam masala, salt and lemon juice. Turn the heat back down to medium/medium low and cover. Cook for 10 minutes.

Remove cover and add ginger and chili powder. Stir uncovered for 30 seconds.

Serve with basmati rice steamed with whole cardamom seeds and butter/margarine. You can also chop some cucumber and add it to plain yogurt (I recommend Greek yogurt) to make a delicious condiment. This dish can be SPICY!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reflections On Being a Teacher and a Mom

Stella's hoping nobody will recognize her.

First off, I must apologize for two things. I'm sorry I haven't posted any new entries in a while. I hope the ensuing riots weren't too bad and that nobody went off the deep end. It's just that we moved into our new place and that cause me to be preoccupied with unpacking and setting up. Also, Stella's sleeping got all fucactad. Was it the teething? Maybe. Was it acclimating to her new environs? Possibly. Could it have been that she hit 4,000 developmental milestones in 2 weeks (flipping, sitting, creeping, almost crawling)? Could be. Anyway, I had little time to sit down behind this computer screen, and so I apologize.

The second apology is for the photo above. Not for its insane adorableness; I will never apologize for that. But because it has nothing to do with this entry. I couldn't help myself. That picture deserved to be on this blog somewhere, even if it's a complete non-sequitur.

OK. Onto the meat.

When people ask me what I do, my first instinct is still to answer, "I'm a teacher." This is a bit strange because, although I'm certified to teach, have taught for 6 years, and am still technically employed as a teacher (I'm on an unpaid childcare leave), I am not currently working as a teacher. Instead I spend 24 hours/day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year working as a mom. Happily. Jubilantly. I just can't forget that I'm a teacher, no matter how much of a mom I become. Teaching is honestly my calling.

When I was growing up, my mom had a sort of...prejudice against teachers who were also parents. She thought they pushed their kids a little too hard, that their kids' work was always a little suspiciously perfect, that they had some sort of unfair advantage. To be fair, my mom is an awesome person and now LOVES that I'm a teacher. She, of course, thinks that I'm the exception to the weird parent rule.

And although I didn't always know I'd be a teacher (there was that short-lived, completely non lucrative career as a playwright/director), I kind of always knew I'd be a mom (someday in the DISTANT future, I always said). And I knew I'd be one of those moms who's kid was brilliant.

I always thought of kids as sponges. It seemed like such a waste to me not to speak a foreign language in front of your child, read them every book known to man, teach them to play the cello and solve complex math problems with them from the moment they popped out. I knew my kid would speak fluently by 1 year, read by 2 years, and begin working on her novel by 3.

That was before I actually became a teacher and met parents who lived that philosophy.

Now I really don't want to dog parents of students I've had. I've known incredible parents and forged wonderful relationships with them. However, in my former neighborhood there were parents who would push their kids so hard it nearly broke my heart. I would have students who would be falling asleep at their desks. When I asked the little boy or girl why he or she was tired, the reply was usually something like this: "well, I had my after-school French class, so I met with my tutor later than usual. After that, I had my African dance class and then came home to have a quick dinner before practicing my harpsichord and doing my homework. Then there was a special program on NPR about the economy that dad wanted me to hear so I didn't get to sleep until midnight."

Did you notice what was missing from that? Downtime and play.

Now that I teach, I've begun to view downtime and play as so much more crucial to a child's development than constant drilling of information in an attempt to fill up that sponge. Just today, waiting to get Stella's shots, I saw a man who seemed like a loving and attentive father. His toddler was adorable and very bright! Not a moment was wasted waiting for the doctor. Books weren't read, they were evaluated. "What do you think will happen next?" "How would you solve this problem?" Games left in the waiting room weren't played, they were used to teach. "If the red ball travels on the blue line and gets to the green triangle, what do you think will happen to the orange ball if it travels on the same line?"

To be fair, the little girl was engaged and having fun. But it just made me wonder, if this is how the dad acts waiting for the doctor, I wonder what kind of training is happening at home. Stella was chilling on my lap, gazing at all the people (much like my mom, Stella can people watch for days). I had a chewable book on my lap, in case she needed to munch, but I wasn't reading because she didn't look bored. And can I tell you that same father kept throwing me expectant glances? I mean, I honestly think he was concerned about the fact that I was wasting precious teaching time with my 7th month old.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm still a teacher at heart. I read to Stella daily. I'm working with her to say "mama" (to enrich her vocabulary but also because I'm peeved that she only says "dada" so far). I'm putting things in a container and showing her how to dump them out.

As she gets older, we will find ways to solve real-life math problems daily. We'll make predictions about books, write a bit each day, discuss current events in child-appropriate ways.

However, we will also finger paint. We will make messes. We will roll around on the floor and tickle each other until we almost pee our pants. And finally, and I hope you don't call child services on me for this one, we will VEG OUT. Stella will relax on her bed, flipping through a picture book or holding her teddy or just staring at the ceiling. How else can you relax and process what happened to you in your quickly evolving life?

That's that. I'm not judging others for how they raise their kids (no matter how tempting) because the fact of the matter is we all make mistakes. I've already made 3,473, according to my latest calculations. But robbing Stella of her youth just to make her a prodigy is not one I'll add to my list.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad...

Stella loves her new room, even if she's not sleeping there yet!

Here we are, settled into our new, ginormous apartment. Moving is one of those events that causes your stress factor to increase exponentially, though, no matter how excited you were about the move.

The good news is, the place is still as huge as I remember it. Sometimes, after viewing an apartment, my brain has a field day with my memory, adding many square feet and sometimes even complete rooms to a place, so by the time I revisit it, I'm utterly disappointed in its sheer lack of size. That did NOT happen this time, though. If anything, the place actually seems larger.
Stella loves the size. She's always been prone to taking up lots of space, especially when she makes it into our bed (nightly). She's only 6 1/2 months old, and yet with her arms outstretched, she can cause Dave and I to huddle in a corner for the duration of the night! Now that she has an entire room where we can lay down her foam play mat (as seen in the photo above), she's creeping, flipping, scooting, you name it! That little girl literally couldn't wait to spread her wings, and our old 650 square foot place did not give her that opportunity!

The neighborhood is great! It's quiet, so much more quiet than Park Slope, but it's diverse and interesting. We've had delicious Russian beer twice this week. It's higher in alcohol content and an enormous bottle only cost $2. Take that, Beerkraft! We're also only a 5-10 minute stroll from Ditmas Park, an area with lots of young families and fun cafes, restaurants, wine-stores. It's like Park Slope Lite.

The building is wonderfully well-kept, with an elevator and efficient laundry in the basement (I gave that a test drive yesterday with tons of poopy-soiled baby clothes). The building seems to be populated by nice folks, and our neighbors are very friendly.

But, as you well know, this is New York City, and you don't get a huge, beautiful, CHEAP apartment in a safe, nice neighborhood for nothing.

Since this apartment building is immaculately maintained, they took major pains to renovate our place for us. The upside is that I have an entirely refinished kitchen with brand new appliances (oops -- I just drooled on the keyboard). The bad news is they polyurethaned the floors like 6 million times. It honestly looks like a roller rink in here, and the fumes are so bad that I have a nightly headache and I've been a beasty of a wife to poor Dave.
Much worse than that, though, is the fact that Stella's been cranky and is even coughing! I take her out for as long as the weather permits each day, and as my doctor-friend Lisa advised, we are airing the place out, getting an air filter, buying VOC-filtering plants, and taking other pains to reduce environmental hazards. Today I plan on buying a mop and drenching the floors in a mixture of water and baking soda, then finishing up by rubbing a lemon over the floor, as I read that that can help.
Still, I hate to think of my perfect little girl breathing in all those fumes.
And, although we signed a waiver from the landlord stating that they have no knowledge of lead paint ever being used in our building, it is a super-old building so I expect that there's probably lead paint somewhere under all those layers. That wouldn't be too much of an issue, except the paint is peeling off pretty badly on our bedroom door -- down to many old coats. We are sending the chips off to a lab to be tested for lead paint, and if it comes back positive, we're going to buy a sealant to contain the situation, but of course that'll mean that I also spend the rest of our time here obsessed with Stella not putting her hands in her mouth after touching the wall or floor. That doesn't sound fun
Ah...New York. Where nothing is ever just easy or even normal.
Again, though, we are so incredibly fortunate to have found this place and I know that, over time, the pros will certainly outweigh the cons.
There is one other downfall, but I'd rather not post about it here in a public forum. I'd be happy to tell you about it privately. (And no, it doesn't involve any adult naughty business. We have a 6 1/2 month old baby, remember?)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You Can Take the Girl Out of Kentucky...

The Brooklyn Baby Empire at the BBM's alma mater, Centre College.

The stray horse at my mom's house. Yep. Stray horse.

My aunt, Mozella, helps Stella model a local haircut.

My nephew, Daniel, is a pro at holding Stella.

My brother, Jason, is Stella's doppelganger.

Stella's aunt Nikole is smitten.

My sister, Nora, rocks as an aunt.

My mom, Judy, with 3/4 of her grandkids: Bethany (Nora's daughter), Stella, and Daniel (Nora's son). My other brother Kerry's daughter Claire lives in Las Vegas.

I really should be packing to move into our new (BIG!) apartment. I am literally surrounded by boxes and humbled by Dave's admirable efforts to pack up our entire 650 square feet lives. But I am a master procrastinator, so blog I must.
We had a simply incredible visit to Kentucky. Stella dazzled and charmed my family until they were dizzy, and my family, in turn, wittled their way into my daughter's enormous heart. I got to experience what parenthood is like when you have the help of trusted loved ones (how will I ever go back?) and I was stunned at how well my sometimes touchy daughter adapted to all the new places, faces and Southern energy that surrounded her. I literally feel as if I left about half of myself back in the bluegrass state.
I often feel as if I inhabit two worlds. I love living in Brooklyn. I crave constant action and I love being surrounded by diversity and excitement. However, I miss the gorgeous landscape of my home state, the openness and friendliness of its inhabitants, and most of all, my wonderfully loving and hilarious family.
C'est la vie, or at least that's what I tell myself to keep from balling for a week straight every time we return from a trip.
We also had an awesome time at my 10-year college reunion. I had an amazing 4 years at Centre College, making intense friendships and falling deeply in love with some stellar professors who opened my eyes in so many ways. Sometimes, when times are rough, I reflect fondly on my college years. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but there are times when I completely understand the song from Avenue Q, "I wish I could go back to college." Here's a sampling of the lyrics:
I wish I could go back to college.
Life was so simple back then.
What would I give to go back and live
In a dorm with a meal plan again!
I wish I could go back to college.
In college you know who you are.
You sit in the quad, and think,
"Oh my God!I am totally gonna go far!"
So, yeah, I've totally romanticized my college years WAY too much in the past decade. But going back to my reunion, I had a really healthy realization: I had a wonderful college experience, made the best friends of my life, was in wonderful plays, had a cool campus job (techy extraordinaire for our drama department), studied in France for a semester, and took amazing classes. Out of the 19 years of schooling I've had from kindergarten to grad school, those are the 4 that I'd happily relive, if I had to.
That said, I am so happy to be where I am now. As much as I learned at Centre, I learned way more the 10 years following graduation. And as much fun as college was, I never really had someone during that time with whom I could share my life, and now I have my husband Dave, my partner in crime, and our gorgeous little girl. I live in an exciting city and have a wonderful family scattered around the country.
The best moment of the night of my reunion came when we returned to the hotel room, where my mom was watching Stella. I couldn't help but be nervous almost the whole night, as Stella hasn't been apart from us very much at all and still drinks her breastmilk almost exclusively from its original container. But there they were, my mom and my daughter, cuddled together on the bed, sleeping peacefully. I felt so overcome with love at that moment I almost burst right out of my spanx.
Now here we are, getting ready to move on up (or down, technically) to a 2 bedroom apartment in the sky (or on the 2nd floor). I feel so blessed and rich.
The only problem is now Stella seems to constantly be searching for that adoring and entertaining cast of characters we left behind in Kentucky. She may have been born in Brooklyn, but I have a sneaking suspicion that she's a Southern girl at heart!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Movin' On Up!

After about 2 years of countless real-estate searching, we have finally found a worthy/available apartment that's not in a crappy neighborhood! (This news has been brewing a while, but I dared not post about it until AFTER we'd signed the lease, which we did this morning. We've had many an apartment fall through right when we thought we'd nailed it.)

We will continue to remain the Brooklyn Baby Empire, because we will be staying in Brooklyn. However, we must bid adieu to Park Slope, as we won't be able to afford it until one or both of us gets that million dollar book deal we haven't been pursuing.

We're moving an area a bit south of Kensington, a bit west of Ditmas Park, a bit north of Midwood, a bit east of Greenwood Cemetery. Despite it's lack of a real neighborhood title, it's a very nice area. It's quiet compared to Park Slope, but it has lots of trees, gorgeous Victorian-era homes, lots of nice Orthodox Jewish families, more diversity than Park Slope, enough stores and restaurants, and is very safe. And, fellow Park Slopians, you'll be happy to know it's only a 10 minute drive and 4 subway stops away from you!

Now, onto the best part: the apartment. I will post pictures as soon as we can get in to take them. (The floors were being finished when last we were there, and I dared not take pictures until we knew we had it -- see how superstitious I've become?) It's in this big pre-war building with an elevator (no more walk up) and laundry in the building (so we can continue the cloth-diaper dealio).

The apartment is...well, it's awesome. Now, having lived in NYC for over a decade, I guess my expectations might be considered low in comparison to someone who lives in the real America, the one where bathtubs don't just sit in the middle of kitchens and where 300 square feet is considered a closet, not a studio apartment.

But I don't care who you are, this place is amazing. It is a REAL 2-BR. Seriously. It's about 1000 square feet. The bedrooms are equal size -- huge. There's an entrance foyer that is only slightly smaller than our current living room. And that's just the foyer. The living room could be a living room in a house in the Midwest. The kitchen isn't huge, actually, but it's been completely renovated and it does have space for a table. The best part about the kitchen, though, is it's as far away from Stella's room as can be, which means I can do dishes while she naps. (Is it crazy that that THRILLS me?)

It has all those charming pre-war details that I love -- molding, arched doorways, thick walls, etc. The floors are hard-wood and in great condition because the last tenant spent many decades there (roughly 5) and covered up their majesty with fluorescent shag carpeting. Too bad we couldn't keep it (ahem).

So, I'm elated. Of course we have to move out November 1st and we'll be spending the next two weekends in Kentucky visiting my family, so we'll have to scramble to find movers, to pack, to get rid of/sell items we no longer need, and then to unpack and set up the new place. But hey, I'll take it.

PS -- Those of you who've offered to come babysit to give momma a break, I'd love to cash in on that sometime between October 27th and 31st so I could pack while you entertain Stella-bella! Just email me and let me know if that's something you're into! (Assuming I know you. Otherwise it might be weird. Even if this is NYC.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Construction Junction

Ugliness in the making

Big Ol' Hole in the Ground 1 Building Over

One of the Holes in the Ground Across the Street

Another Hole in the Ground Across the Street

The Finished Product: Brooklyn's Own Tower of Terror

There are many reasons why our current choice of habitation is not ideal when you have a sleep-challenged baby.

1. The apartment is small, and the bedroom is right next to the living room, separated by a thin, creaky door that actually has slats in it that allow light from the living room to spill into the bedroom. We've taken to putting a sheet over the slats to keep the light out, and Dave WD-40'd the hell out the door, so now it only mildly groans, like me when I'm getting a good massage. When we watch a movie, we are constantly readjusting the volume, turning it way down for music/action sequences and way up during important whispered conversations. If it's a movie I've seen before, it's not unusual to find me barking orders at Dave (who insists with all his testosterone on managing the remote) such as "loud scene coming, turn it down NOW!"

2. The apartment is luminously bright, which is one of the reasons we were so keen to take it. With our photosensitive girl, however, we must apply aluminum foil to the windows in order to block out that gorgeous sun, causing our once cheerful apartment to now seem like the set from the movie, The Others.

3. We live on a 3rd floor walkup. Stella weighs almost 20 lbs. I go up and down those stairs with her at least 3 times a day. (And yet, miraculously, my body refuses to shed its baby-weight.)

These are all good reasons why we want/need to move ASAP. But there is one other reason that trumps all of these. Because, in essence, we have an awesome deal on this place and it's in a super-sweet neighborhood. Our landlords are stellar and we're just now really getting to know our neighbors. We could really put up with those top three reasons, even as Stella begins to toddle around this cramped apartment.

So what is so terrible that you've spent most of your free time doing the real-estate cha-cha, you ask?

The pictures above say it all. Our little corner of the world has become, as I not-so-lovingly refer to it, Construction Junction. On one little block in Park Slope Brooklyn, five -- COUNT THEM FIVE -- construction sites have been established in order to create over-priced, fugly condominiums. Did I mention over-priced? Because they will be.

Now, in my not-so-humble opinion, towering, cheaply-made, ridiculously priced condos are the last thing our little neck of the wood needs. There's little to no parking already (and most of these buildings do not contain parking garages) and our highly-rated public school (at which I teach when I'm not on full-time mommy duty) is becoming increasingly over-populated and less and less diverse. Soon we will be neighbors with a-holes who could buy and sell us several times over. And the self-righteous attitude that turns people off about this neighborhood could very well become the doctrine.

But I'm not just angry at these condo developers because they're crapping on our neighborhood, causing the landscape to be less and less attractive while causing the real estate prices to be increasingly astronomical (if you're looking for a 2 bedroom in Park Slope but can't afford more than $700K, good luck, buddy). I'm also angry at them for a far more personal reason.

Those development sites are mind-bogglingly loud during the day. In particular, the hole in the ground one building over involves some machine that constantly jars the ground, causing my entire building to shimmy and shake (I've even had stuff fall off the shelves in the process). There's also some guy whose job it is, at least according to my aural abilities, to bang on a pole all day. "Ting ting ting ting..." All day. Not to mention the normal construction buzzes, bangs, booms, etc.

Even our ridiculously posh, very loud white noise machine can't drown out the sound of five construction sites. Especially when we're experiencing a minor earthquake in the process.

Worse than the sound pollution, though, is the possible air pollution. One of the holes in the ground across the street (as opposed to the one one building over -- there are three in total) used to be an older apartment building. They began dismantling it after Stella's birth, during one of our restless, napless times when I spent countless hours in the bedroom nursing and coercing her to sleep. I watched the guys rip apart in weeks what it took months for some other builders, decades ago, to make. I also watched the sky fill with dust and debris.

Around that same time, my 100% breastfed girl* was coughing, wheezing and sneezing her head off. Now I can't say for sure that there's a coorelation, but the minute they were done with the project, she stopped having countless colds. We've contacted 311 (NYC's community hotline) to complain about all this and request an air quality test, but we haven't heard anything to date.

So, I've had it up to my colossal breastfeeding boobs with all this construction. The looser restrictions on obtaining building permits in our city have led to the blander and blander landscapes and less-and-less affordable housing. Hmmm...reminds me of our current economic crisis. What lesson can we learn kids? Restrictions can be a good thing! (For example: someone needs to restrict my Oreo consumption, so that aforementioned baby weight can finally come off.)

There is only one little beacon of hope that I hold in my bitter little heart. Although there is not much speculative building that happens in NYC (hence our real estate bubble holding strong amidst the housing crisis), these four buildings must be at least partially speculative. I mean, who buys a condo before it's even built? And the only people I've ever heard of who can afford over-priced, cramped condos are Wall Street execs. (The more family-oriented wealthy crew tend to buy the gorgeous brownstones in Park Slope -- which is exactly what I would do if we were to suddenly strike it rich.) Last I heard, Wall Street guys ain't doing so well. Which means, maybe they won't be so hot to buy an ugly, expensive, 1 bedroom apartment. Which means maybe these a-holes who've decided to wreak havoc on my block might just lose all their dough.

Losing all your cash on a shoddily-built, overpriced condo is pretty rough. But it ain't nothing compared to watching your little girl miss yet another nap because some guy in a hard-hat is hitting a metal pole.

*Breastfed babies receive more antibodies and therefore have stronger immune systems than non-breastfed babies. At least, that's what all the pamphlets say.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Worry Foot

It's amazing how this little creature that you've convinced yourself is half you, half your spouse, is really comprised of so many people that came before you.

Although people tell me Stella is my spitting image, I almost always see my own brother, Jason, in her facial expressions. In the picture above, for example, she looks just like my brother when he is finding a way to insinuate that I'm of sub-par intelligence ("stup," as my family calls it). I wish I had a good digital photo of my brother so you could see the uncanny resemblance for yourself, but somehow Dave and I tend to overload our computer's memory with photos of Stella, cats and Dave's myriad guitars rather than our own family members. (Yay priorities!)

It's not always Stella's physical appearance that reminds us of others, though. Although Stella's fiery personality reminds some people of me (I have no idea why), I've also been touched and delighted to find my own grandmother peeking out from Stella's mannerisms lately.

Millie "Mamaw" Miles passed away in December 2005, two and a half years before Stella's birth. She was an incredible baker, an awesome ghost-storyteller, and a generous shoulder on which to cry. Her most amazing talent, some might argue, though, was worrying.

That woman worried nonstop. She worried when I had to give a speech in front of my high school graduating class. "What if you trip walking to the stage?" She worried about me going to college an hour and a half away. "All that driving!" She worried when I had a boyfriend. "Is he a nice boy? Does he come from a good, Christian family?" She worried when I didn't have a boyfriend. "Ain't you lonely, honey?" She even worried when she had nothing to worry about. "I just feel like I forgot something that was worrying me."

When I moved from a town of 1,000 people in Kentucky to New York City, my grandmother's worry-ometer went through the roof. I know she was upset to lose her beloved granddaughter, but I think she was too busy worrying about all the things that could go wrong in the big bad city to process that.

I forget which of my Mamaw's friends it was who said the magic words, "I don't ever worry about anything, because I know Millie will worry for me!"

Mamaw's worrying wasn't confined to her brain. Her worry exhibited itself physically, through what I always thought of as "the worry foot." She'd be relaxing on the couch, watching CMT, but that foot wouldn't stop thinking about her neighbor whose son was having his gallbladder removed. That foot would pat the linoleum, swish from side to side, bounce to a song by The Kentucky Headhunters, then wiggle angrily. Sometimes Mamaw would worry about her worry foot, and tell her company, "oh, don't mind my foot!"

Well, Stella has a worry foot, too. While I nurse her, Stella's little foot is constantly moving up and down, stroking my side, tickling my underarm, patting my thigh. Sometimes I grab her little worry foot, because it's so chunky and delicious, but she always wriggles it free so it can continue to worry.

Her foot doesn't just worry while nursing; it worries in the car seat, in the stroller, while I'm wearing her in the Ergo, when she's sitting on anyone's lap, during tummy time, etc. Her foot is training for the Olympics of body-part-worrying!

While I hope my girl can avoid the plague of worry that seems to affect almost every female from my gene-pool, I love that she has this particular trait from a great-grandmother she'll sadly never get to meet. I get to remember my amazing Mamaw every single day that I look at my girl, and Stella helps my Mamaw live on, just by being adorable!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Stella and Cromwell modelling our current sleep configuration

I include the picture above not only because cats plus babies equals mad cuteness, but also to show you what our current sleep situation is.

The crib is right next to our bed with the rail slid down as far as it goes. We have this situation for 2 reasons. First, we live in a small 1 bedroom apartment, so there's basically few other options for crib placement. Second, since I breastfeed (and since Stella still wakes up quite often during the night), it is easier to just slip her into bed and nurse, sometimes even taking a nap in the process.

Well, at least that's how it worked for a while. Now, depending on the kind of day we had (i.e. how many naps she got, if any), Stella might fall asleep in the crib or she might scream and cry and refuse to go there, instead sleeping on the bed. Regardless, later in the night, she almost always ends up in bed with us, stretching her arms and taking up so much space that Dave and I are squeezed into a portion of the bed the size of a college twin. It's not as kinky as it sounds, believe me.

That wouldn't be so bad, except Stella's in a pinching phase, so sometimes I'll fall into a deep sleep, only to be awoken by dreams that a lobster is trying to eat my fleshy upper arms. Those dreams are even worse than ones where Kenley from Project Runway snags my man.

The other new phase that we're in is teething. This means Stella drools a lot and puts everything she can get her lobster claws on in her mouth. It also means she's crankier (especially at night) and that she loves to bite my nipple.

Last night, in fact, she bit my nipple, then pulled her head back -- hard. It felt like a snapping turtle was failing at foreplay with me.

But it's not all bad, reader! Because her other new habit is pretty darn irresistable, even if it prevents me from slumbering. Around 2am every single morning my girl wakes up and laughs her head off. I don't know if she's laughing at a dream or laughing from the glory of making into our bed once again or just laughing at what suckers we are, but her laughs are squeaky and adorable. And the beaming smile on her face that comes with them is just ridiculous.

This, my friend, is nighttime parenting at its strangest and most wonderful.

When we move into a 2 bedroom, we may try to get Stella used to her own room. I would really love to keep cosleeping, and I know Stella would, too, but I think our constant moving actually keeps her up at night. She might get more shut-eye in her own quiet, dark setting.

And, although I crave 5 or more hours of sleep 2 or more days in a row, I have to admit I'll miss these unusual nights.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dream a Little Dream

Some dreams are just too funny not to share.

I guess I've been watching a little too much reality TV lately, in particular, my absolute favorite: Project Runway. I'll get to why that's relevant in a moment.

So, last night, the Brooklyn Baby slept -- a bit. You have to remember that in this apartment, a stretch of 3 hours is seen as a blessing, 4 hours is cause for celebration, 5 is a miracle.
So, a miracle happened last night, and we all slept from midnight to 5am. Now, before you start to comment on my blog something to the effect of "yippee -- that means Miss Stella slept through the night," just know that she's done this before and it never sticks. In fact, a relatively easy night like last night is usually followed by 2 weeks or so of our usual sleep -- awake every hour to hour and a half for sucking and wailing and indecision. (I adore my little girl, but she takes after her momma -- I can't seem to get comfortable, I toss and turn, and I'm a terror to share a bed with. And yet, I hate to sleep alone.)
What does 5 hours of sleep do to Randi? Well, it gives me a chance to dream, that's what! I've always been a vivid dreamer and I can almost always recall pretty much every detail of my dreams. However, if I don't sleep, I don't dream; and that's just sad.
Unfortunately, as Dave and my mom can tell you, my vivid dreams usually involve the people I love the most treating me like crap. Sure, I have the occasional flying dream or dream where I can still speak fluent French (even though I've been out of college over a decade) or even the allusive and wonderful naughty dream, but mostly my dreams are of me being a victim to people who, in real life, are marvelous to me.
Get to the dream, Randi! Geez! Sorry, I digress. So, last night, I dreamt that my husband of over 3 years, the man I've been with almost 7 years, the father of our adored little girl - I dreamt that that guy and I were just friends. True, we had a daughter in the dream. But in this alternate dream reality, that didn't account for much.

So my pal and I were hanging out, and I was trying to be overly casual because I was secretly in love with him. He was being jovial and funny and oh-so-irresistable, and I was thinking I might make a move, might help transition us from just friends (with a child) to something more.

Then some a-hole came in. In the dream, he was a friend of Dave's and a guy I could barely tolerate (not any of our real-life friends, thankfully, just a fictional a-hole). He punched Dave on the arm and says, "Dude, I hear you're with Kenley!"
Dave looks at me, slightly embarrassed in the dream, then looks back at the guy and says, "Yeah, we've dated a bit."
The a-hole says, "Right on, she's hot!" And I am reduced to a puddle of poo on the floor.
Oh, but who's Kenley you ask? I guess you do not degrade yourself with reality TV in that case, so I'll show you a picture:

Yes, she looks awfully proud of herself for snagging my man, doesn't she?
She's the designer on P.R. who makes pretty sweet vintage-y clothes but serves 'em up with a side order of snarkiness and immaturity that causes her to be reality TV gold. Oh, and I guess it doesn't hurt that she's hot.

So, that's how I spent my glorious 5 hours of repose -- dreaming that the love of my life was dating some pouty little reality TV star.
I guess a sad dream is better than no dream, right? (At least it means I slept.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Blogger is Born!

Well, here I am. Emerging cold, wet and naked into the hostile flourescent lights of the blogosphere. Dave finally convinced me that all of America was waiting with baited breath to read the momma's perspective of our weird, wonderful and often hilarious journey as parents. So, America, breathe your sigh of relief. Randi is here!

I've kept a private journal on both Myspace and Facebook for a while, fearful of what the general public (i.e. the parents of my students) would think of my off-color (and sometimes adult) humor. Dave has convinced me that, although the Patriot Act tried to do so valiantly, our freedom of speech has not been abolished. So, I blog.

I thought I'd start off with what has become my favorite picture of Stella (see above). For the longest time, I didn't show this photo to anyone, as I worried it might turn some people's stomachs or be considered too private.

But I can't help it: I love that photo! Even amidst all the gorgeous pics of our beaming girl, our girl in frilly dresses, our girl attempting to sit up (and listing to one side), our girl among cats even, this is, by far, my favorite.

It's a miracle this picture was even taken! In the broad sense, it's a miracle that Stella was created (it just is -- it's not always easy to make a baby) and it's a miracle that she made it into this world safe and sound.

But the picture itself is a miracle. It was taken by my mom. My mom whom we were certain would miss the birth, because she was arriving a full ten days after my due date and I'd convinced the world that, due to my crazy early contractions and enormous size, I'd go early. It's a miracle that my mom had the state of mind to snap a picture when she'd listened to me wail, unmedicated and miserable, for 10 hours prior to that. And it's a miracle that she had the guts to snap a picture when I had screamed at her, just minutes before, "NO VAGINA SHOTS, MOM!"

The whole night was a miracle, and that's the truth. I mean, just look at her! That creature lived inside of me for 9 months and came out of my body. I don't care what you say, that is amazing.

So, now I am like Stella in that picture. New to this and quite vulnerable. I've been hazed on the internet before (just consult some of Dave's old blogs). But I guess I can't hide forever.

So, here I am! And, by the way, IT'S A GIRL!