Friday, December 31, 2010

The Top Ten of '10

Au revoir, Brooklyn!


My sister's Christmas card was fabulous this year. Rather than a long letter of all her family's triumphs and woes, she made a bright, vibrant top ten list of their stand-out moments. Seeing as she's a wonderful graphic designer, it was not only poignant, it was visually stunning.

Mine will just be poignant. Maybe.

After the horrible year we experienced in 2009, 2010 was a year of reconstruction - pulling ourselves together after the brutal wars we fought. The war against a corrupt landlord who refused to dispose of both lead paint and a violent neighbor properly. The war against my possibly nearly fatal (TMI?) post-partum depression. The war against our budget after Dave lost his job at Forbes. The war Dave and I fought against each other as we tried to make sense of the constant sleeplessness we were experiencing combined with seemingly constant moving.

2010 was definitely an improvement. We had settled into an apartment that was devoid of lead paint and had a reasonable neighbor. I'd gone back to work part-time at my beloved school in Brooklyn. Stella, thank God in Heaven, had not only begun to sleep, but began to be possibly the best sleeper in her class -- middle-weight toddlers. And, despite Dave's work situation, we'd tightened our apron strings sufficiently to avoid going into debt or claiming bankruptcy.

We had climbed far enough up Maslow's hierarchy of needs to stop simply surviving and start self-actualizing.

For me, that meant being brutally honest with both Dave and myself about the fact that I couldn't stay healthy as a "middle class" (i.e. impoverished) parent in NYC with no family support. I had to stop finding a way to try to fit my square self in that round hole and just start searching for a freaking square hole (they're hard to find).

So, keeping that long-winded prelude in mind, I present to you The Brooklyn/Bluegrass Baby Momma's Top Ten Profound Moments of 2010:

10. Getting bed bugs - TWICE - and dealing with record low temps and large amounts of snow while living in a place with limited heat.
9. Finally convincing Dave that we had to give moving back to Kentucky a shot, after the above events showed us that just moving out of Little Russia wasn't going to solve all of our problems and that possibly NYC was simply not for us.
8. Working my butt off to find (and succeeding in that endeavor) what people told me was an impossible situation: working for a rural, high-needs school an easy commute away from our urban life in Louisville.
7. Moving to the nicest apartment we've ever inhabited without seeing it first. (Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for finding it!)
6. Finding that I love being a middle school language arts teacher, and that I really do love being back in a school where I feel needed.
5. Reconnecting with wonderful Louisville friends while missing wonderful NYC friends.
4. Finally finding a spiritual home at Adath Jeshurun after years and years of searching.
3. Finding so much joy in the fact that we can afford to send Stella to preschool here without knowing the mayor or president or dishing over her entire college fund.
2. Watching with glee as Dave has the time and energy to write awesome freelance stories and perform his wonderful, original music in a band composed of cool, sweet, trustworthy guys.
1. Getting to be with my family again in a normal way (well, as normal as we get) after 12 years away. And the best part of that is watching Stella fall madly in love with them and vice versa.

This is the kind of year that really showed me the power of prayer and positive thinking. I really thought this move, this job, this drastic change would never happen, but once I set my mind and heart and soul into trying to achieve it, it's amazing how things just fell into place.

I hope that we can all keep that in mind in 2011. We are our own worse enemies. Our fear and doubt and self-loathing and petty differences all serve to distract us from our awesome potential.

What does your heart really want for you in 2011? Are you willing to shut up the negative voices in your head and just GO FOR IT?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My One Resolution

This is the kind of person I want to be in 2011.

Unlike many people I know who hate New Year's resolutions, I love them. Or rather, I love making them. Keeping them is an entirely different story.

But I love the chance to start over, to write a new chapter, to turn over a new leaf.

And I've been thinking a lot about how I want 2011 to be different, see as how 2008-2010 kind of kicked my ass.

And my list, the one I was composing in my head, grew longer and longer, more and more intricate, even including a weekly schedule of things I'd need to attend to in order to improve my weight, my financial state, my mental well-being, my professional success, and so on.

And then, tonight, it hit me. Dave and I were engaged in Stella's bedtime routine - a multi-step, deeply involved process that we developed during the sleepless and crazy period of time from her birth until she turned 16 months old. It goes something like this:
1. Warm bath.
2. 5, 3 and 1 minute warnings that the bath is ending, so she doesn't flip out.
3. Having her help us clean up the bathtub while singing the Clean Up song.
4. Full-body massage with lavender-scented lotion.
5. Not one but two different songs that we made up about being sleepy.
6. Pajamas, then tucking her into bed with soothing words about the good dreams she'll have.
7. White noise machine and pitch black bedroom.

We do this the same way. Every night. And whether or not our now wonderfully-sleeping daughter needs it, it just feels right. In fact, it's the sweetest time of day, at least for Dave and me, one we look forward to consistently.

However, I rarely take that same amount of time - roughly 30 minutes per day - to do anything for myself. I rush out the door each morning, either skipping breakfast or packing a banana. I take 5 minute showers and crawl into bed each night after minimal face-washing and tooth-brushing. I've neglected exercise in favor of working late or being with Stella or just sitting on my butt out of fatigue. And, although we make most of our own food and eat pretty well, I still feast on sweets late at night and make a lot of foolish food choices during my weak time - post school, pre-dinner.

Consequently I'm overweight, exhausted, lacking in self-confidence, a bit depressed, riddled with achy joints, wearing poorly-fitting clothes, and often feeling frazzled and/or pulled in 1,000 directions. Oh. And unappreciated. I'm definitely feeling unappreciated.

I realized that the 452 resolutions I was making all really stem from one big one:

Take care of myself as well as I take care of Stella.

If I can manage that, everything else will fall into place. I will:

1. Eat the correct number of healthy, whole-food meals per day with no night-eating.
2. Drink only water and sometimes milk - no more sodas. (Coffee, though, coffee gets to stay.)
3. Get sufficient exercise in varying, fun ways (I'm thinking more hot yoga, zumba, and wii fit over playgrounds and bouncy rooms, but still).
4. Take good care of my skin. (In fact, maybe I'll give myself nightly massages with scented lotion, too.)
5. Do something, each day, just because I want to, and not feel guilty. (This could include reading, calling a friend, going to see a movie by myself, or writing a blog entry.)
6. Just as Stella tidies up the bathtub while singing "clean up, clean up," I will find a way each day to help our home stay clean and welcoming.
7. Laugh freely and easily, sometimes for no reason at all.
8. And, finally, I will not be afraid to say "NO!" Loudly and jubilantly. To people, to responsibilities, to guilt, to uncertainty, to situations that make me unhappy.

It will all come full circle for me. I can be a good mom, a good teacher, a good wife, AND a happy, healthy woman who cares about herself. (I just have to wait until January 1st so I can sneak in a few more days of crappy eating and laziness.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yes, I'm alive.

I would have settled for this cake. Seriously.


Alive but incredibly busy and, as of very late, in one of my famous "funks."

I must say this about myself. As my age has increased, so has my ability to handle my trademark funks - the times in my life when I feel the world is crashing down, that nobody has ever cared for me, when I wonder why I ever was placed on this earth to begin with. In fact, now the funks are few and far between, and normally, when they occur, I can usually take a long, hot bath and remind myself that this is mostly chemical and will pass. That my life is really not one big pattern of people abandoning and neglecting me. That I am blessed beyond belief but that I've developed some unhealthy habits that need to be reversed.

I tried to handle the past week this way, but I have failed. After several months of working my butt off - both as a mom and as a teacher - spending what little spare time I have trying to nurture my gratitude and serenity, this week has royally and completely kicked my ass and broken down my resolve.

I wasn't happy about my birthday to begin with. Thirty-five. Middle age, if I die at seventy. The time when, should we decide to get pregnant again, I will most likely be asked to take a battery of tests and will be at a higher risk of problems - both for myself and the baby. An age where it's even harder to lose all the fat I've accumulated, where wrinkles and gray hairs are multiplying like bunnies, where I'm routinely referred to as "lady." This is even harder to take when I realize I spent all the years I should have been young and sassy curling up into myself and feeding my "funks."

Regardless, I shook it off and told myself to be a big girl. And then, then came the middle schoolers. I'm loving my job, I feel I'm 100% where I need to be, I really love the staff and administration, but I'm still acclimating to the mood swings and occasional attitude of middle schoolers. Particularly the "mean girls" who bring back WAY too many painful memories of Sonora Middle School and the psychological raids I received.

So, I should have just shrugged it off when one of those "mean girls" sang the first part of "Happy Birthday," but finished with "you look like a monkey" and a howl of laughter. I should have just calmly written some detentions slips and then let it go while another "mean girl" joined in, pointing and cackling. I should have focused on my incredibly sweet third block class who sang "Happy Birthday" to me (the normal version) and gave me gifts like a candy cane and an apple, rather than fuming over those girls whose punishment I'd already doled out.

Instead, I loaded it onto my shoulders and into my heart, bringing it in the door with me. There was my gorgeous daughter who immediately wanted something from me and my sweet husband, consumed with his 4,000 writing assignments. No bouquet of flowers, no handmade card from Stella, nobody hugging me and shouting out how happy they were that I was born. I sagged even more into my sadness.

So much so that I couldn't really appreciate the delicious steak dinner Dave made, because I was consumed with the lack of wine and a cake to go with it.

A word about cake. I bake. I love to bake. I especially love to bake cakes. I really, especially love to bake birthday cakes. And I love to blow out candles and eat birthday cakes on my birthday. It's really the only thing I need to have a good birthday.

However, it seems that the universe has decided that is not usually in the cards for me, no matter what.

In Dave's defense, he bought ice cream and hot fudge for sundaes, but the ice cream was "off" somehow, and besides, all I ever want is cake. Cake. Just cake.

It should have gotten better the next day when I had a snow day and Dave and I had plans to go to dinner at a place I've been dying to try - Hillbilly Tea - and a show at a fringey, cool theater we've heard about. However, the weather that created my snow day also created icy roads, and we couldn't bring ourselves to ask our friend (and babysitter) to risk her life for us, nor could we handle the thought of getting in a wreck and dying, leaving Stella to fend for herself. So we ate split pea soup, sans cake, and I tried to tell myself that all would be better when I joined some local friends the next night for cocktails.

Now, I had wanted a little party - reminiscent of the ones I used to throw for myself in Brooklyn ages ago. However, this year, I stubbornly refused to plan it myself or make all the food, seeing as I'm working full time and being a mom in my off-hours. So I kept throwing out hints here and there, and those hints fluttered on up to the heavens where they shriveled up and died.

And I was too busy to keep on top of things like I should have, so, about a week and a half before my b'day, I sent out an email seeing if anyone would want to join me for a karaoke party. Only two people responded positively, so rather than book an expensive venue and have nobody come, I decided to demote my "party" to a night of cocktails with friends - an informal event where people could drop in at whim. This received a scant more positive RSVP's. (Having a birthday 10 days before Jesus's means that most of the free world is already spoken for when you so arrogantly want to celebrate the day you were forced to enter this earth.)

But, still, I was excited. I just wanted to get out at night and join the rest of the world, sipping a silly cocktail and laughing loudly and forgetting all about my responsibilities for five minutes.

However, that pesky ice remained on the road, and OOPS! We forgot to book a babysitter. So, no cocktails with friends. And still, believe it or not, no blessed cake.

So, I made backup plans to meet an old friend who lives a mile away for dinner at a nearby restaurant. At least, I thought, I can get out of my cabin-fever-diseased home and eat a bite. Maybe drink a micro-brew. MAYBE BUY MYSELF A SLICE OF CAKE. And, can you believe it, my friend stood me up. STOOD ME FUCKING UP. Excuse my language, but really? I got a text, saying an "unexpected visitor" was occupying his time. I hope to God that visitor is Barack O'fucking Bama, otherwise - there is no excuse.

So...the funk descended. I cried. I threw a couple of things (safely - in a room with no one else in it). I went to Chick-Fil-A by myself and read my book and ate a fried chicken sandwich, waffle fries, and a peppermint chocolate chip shake. I considered an alcoholic drink, but I could feel a cold coming on, so I crawled into bed.

And I awoke with a cold. Sore throat, snot, aching joints, chills. I mean, really?

Still, we had a better, more hopeful day - taking Stella to see "The Nutcracker" as performed by my old dance school - The Dance Centre of Elizabethtown. I got to see my old dance teacher, Mrs. Banard, for the first time in 17 years. As wonderful as this was, it also brought back memories of my difficult youth - a time when the beauty and grace of ballet was one of the few refuges I had against the turmoil and violence of my home and the almost non-existence of a social life at school. I was chubby, it's true, but ladies and gentlemen - I could dance.

I enjoyed time with my family, marveling, as I always do, at how much Stella adores them and how good they are to her. But my cold intensified, and although this would have been the perfect opportunity to let my precious mom shower me with affection and GET ME A FREAKING SLICE OF CAKE, all I wanted to do was wrap myself in 1,000 blankets and sleep.

So, the funk is here. I know it will pass, I just need time, but right now, I'm just kind of pissy and frustrated. It's a hard time of year to expect people to take care of me, I get that, but there were just too many unfortunate events in a row in a week where I was already emotionally raw for me to feel particularly forgiving and understanding of anyone whose name isn't Randi or Stella right now.

At least, today, I managed to get myself some cake. Red velvet cake from The Homemade Pie and Ice Cream Kitchen. And, although my cold has abducted my appetite, I ate EVERY FREAKING BITE.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Halloween Store

Each night, before we put Stella in her room (where, and I still can't believe I can write this, she walks herself to bed, lays herself down and sleeps through the night), I ask Stella what she wants to dream about.

"What are you going to dream about tonight, honey?"

And if she doesn't have an answer, I give her an idea - usually something fun we did that day, something involving her cats or me or Dave or her Mamaw or whatever. Something sweet and soothing.

I do this because, as a child, I was an incredibly troubled sleeper. And part of the reason I was so troubled was because it seemed every time I closed my eyes, I had a nightmare.

A dream that people had broken into the house to murder us, but nobody would listen when I told them to evacuate.

A dream that a nuclear bomb was headed for the U.S. but I couldn't find my mom.

A dream that I fell into a manhole on the street and ended up in Hell.

I will do everything in my power to keep Stella from experiencing such terrifying, sleepless nights. So now, while she's young and impressionable, I'm teaching her to think of relaxing, comforting images as she soothes off.

About a month ago, Dave, Stella and I headed to the local "Halloween Express," Louisville's answer to NYC's Ricky's - an overpriced Mecca of goulish rubber masks and sexy fill-in-the-blank costumes. (Sexy Mad Hatter? Really?)

Stella loved it. Loved it to pieces. Even the enormous, mewing, head-swaying black cat with red eyes. "Wodo!" she called out to it lovingly, assuming it was Cromwell and not wanting to leave its side.

That night, when I asked her what she would dream about, she proclaimed, "HALLOWEEN STORE!" So we imagined roaming the aisles, Wodo by our side, before she drifted off.

The funny thing is, ever since then, that's the thing she wishes to dream about every night when I ask her the question. Including the other night, when she talked about bringing the entire family to the Halloween Store, including Bubbie and Aunt Nora.

I kind of hope this sticks for a long time. I kind of hope next Spring, as the buds begin to blossom and the air begins to warm, that Stella will reply "Halloween Store" when I inquire about her dreams.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Present Problem Solving

The following pictures have nothing to do with this post, but they're awfully cute:

Stella's current obsession: a bed packed with many of the things she loves.

One of her many fabulous outfits.

Turtle Sitting.


So, here's the thing: your first year in a new school, in a new state, on a new grade, with a new curriculum -- well, it might as well just be your first year teaching, period. I'm so blessed to have an incredibly supportive staff and administration, but still. I am working my butt off.

It doesn't help that I got straight into Pollyanna mode at the beginning of the year, saying yes to two projects I love so much that there was no possible way I could turn them down:
1. The Future Problem Solving component of the Academic Team
2. Drama Club

But I really couldn't let either of those activities happen without me, so I guess I'm in the best of all possible outcomes right now. It just also happens to be the MUCH busier of the two.

For those who don't know, the Future Problem Solving Team is a team of four kiddos, given a possible future problem to which they must brainstorm a solution. IT IS SO COOL. If you're a complete and total nerd like me, that is.

A possible problem could be workplace rage on the rise due to the increasing use of robots in multiple industries in the year 2031. Students would come up with 16 possible problems that would arise from this, such as economic breakdown or an increase in domestic violence. Then they would determine the main, underlying problem causing all the problems - such as workers feeling insecure and disgruntled about possibly losing their jobs . Then they would brainstorm 16 possible solutions to the underlying problem, such as site-based counseling committees aimed to intervene when a worker feels unstable. After that, they develop their own set of criteria by which to chose their best possible solution, and plug their 8 best solutions into the approval grid to narrow it down. And finally, FINALLY, after all that, they create a detailed action plan - paragraphs of well-thought-out and researched suggestions - that will alleviate this future conundrum that may or may not ever happen.

To many, that sounds like pure and utter torture. To me, now and back when I was in middle school, this is heaven.

Perhaps it was an intricate escape from the turmoil that was my home-life. Perhaps I preferred to live in a the future rather than face my unstable present. Perhaps it was a ridiculous excuse to keep hanging out with my ex-boyfriend, for whom I still carried a torch.

Or maybe it's just that I've always loved digging myself out of complicated situations. Hmm...

*******

Although I haven't posted in a while, posting has been on my mind. Driving to work (yes, New York friends, driving is part of my daily life now), eating my 25-minute lunch, the 5 second lull when classes change, the quiet right after Stella falls asleep -- these are all moments I find myself fantasizing about what I should write when I have the "time and energy." I just have to face the fact that I'll never have the "time and energy." I just have to make it happen from time to time.

But here's what's been on my mind:
1. Toddler obsessions: Stella's two plastic whales that are her version of a security blanket (and the fear that keeps us up at night that we'll lose one or both).
2. Cliched but true working mommy guilt: why do we suffer from this so much more than daddies?
3. Public education: the conundrum to end all conundrums. My thoughts on how our current system is flawed, how I'd like to fix it, and how I'd like to personally thank George W. Bush for No Child Left Behind and the insane amount of testing that came with it. (Bet you'd like to know HOW I'd thank him, wouldn't you?)
4. How quickly I've acclimated to the comfort of living in KY: laundry and dishwasher in apartment, parking space, balcony, central air, nice people, accessible everything. How easily I've adapted, and how I'm not sure I could go back to Big Apple Living after all this.
5. What I do miss about NYC. And it's not just my friends, although I miss my friends tremendously.

So, blog, like exercising and calling my loved ones, I vow to get to you more often.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Writing it Down





Amidst getting acclimated to my new job (which I still love) and buying a new-to-us-car (what a grueling process) and sending Stella off to preschool (where Stella eats yummy challah), there's been a whole lot of cuteness over here. And I fear if I don't take a moment to write it down, despite my raging cold and the 465 papers I need to grade and the cleaning that I should do, I'll hate myself later.

So, here goes.

As the pictures illustrate, Stella is WAY into dress up. Only my sassy girl never wants to be a princess. Oh, no, she wants to be Lady Gaga or a bunny. In this photo, she is both. (Notice the fluffy tail?)

Speaking of Lady Gaga, Stella's favorite song is Bad Romance. She requests it between 400 and 6oo times a day. And when she says "romance," her New York accent is deliciously apparent. I play the Glee version for her, but I'm still disturbed that she knows all the words.

She invented a game called cheeseburger. This is noteworthy because the game has nothing to do with food and she has never actually consumed a cheeseburger in her life. She stacks whatever clothes she can find - dirty, clean, whatever - into a big pile on our bed and then pretends to eat it. If an article falls off she yells, "OH NO, MY CHEESEBURGER," and rebuilds.

Sometimes, when she is really happy or really tired, she hugs me close and says, "my baby."

She can read her name. I kid you not, she knows her name when she sees it written. And I swear I didn't do this.

I have spots on my chest from a weird infection I got (caused by NYC's tropical weather), and sometimes Stella pretends to eat the spots. She says, "mommy got spots, yum!"

If her nose is runny, she says, "Stella's nose is MESSY!"

She says "thank you," "no thank you," and "please" all on her own. And when she drops something, she picks it up.

She makes up songs. One is called "Baby in the Water" and the other is called "Ballerina Cat." Both are beautiful.

She calls our cat Cromwell, "Wodo." She calls our cat Talisker, "Talisker."

Any and every item can become ice cream in her imagination. Especially ink pens.

Her favorite thing to do is to go to the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen in St. Matthews, not only to eat their Smurf ice cream (made from real Smurfs!), but also to dance to their authentic, antique jukebox. Sometimes she'll peek inside the jukebox, looking for the hound dog who got lost in a jukebox on a particular episode of "The Wonder Pets."

She loves her Mamaw. Whenever we get in the car, she asks if we're going to see her. And her dogs.

Her favorite song, other than "Bad Romance", is "Old MacDonald" (not by Lady Gaga, that I know of). She likes to add odd animals to his farm, such as bears and seals, and sometimes claims that he has a baby or Mamaw on his farm. Once, when she said Mommy was on his farm, she told me the sound Mommy made was, "STELLA," said in an exasperated voice.

She has a single, perfect, dark brown freckle on her right hand.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Power of Language




We've moved three times in the past two years, one of those moves across 800 miles.
Dave lost a job and I changed jobs - from full-time 4th grade teacher to occasional tutor to part-time math coach to full-time 7th grade language arts teacher.
We've had possibly homicidal neighbors, or at least neighbors who almost drove me to homicide.
We've had 1/2 of a marriage realizing that she might very well lose her mind if she remained in NYC, while the other 1/2 of the marriage feared his future if he left NYC.
We've had tears and fights and drinking glasses shattered into 1,000,000 shards.
We've had enough money issues and health issues and life changes to rate us through the roof on the Scientologists' "Stress Test."

But now we have something else.

We have a kid who has slowly but surely become vocal. Very vocal.
She says "please" when she wants something and "thank you" when she gets it.
She says "bless you" when we sneeze.
She says "Stella eats challah," when I ask her what she did at preschool.
And, best of all, she says, "I love YOU, Mommy," out of the clear blue sky. Just because she feels. Not because she's mimicking someone or being cajoled into it.

And those are the moments that I know that "somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why I'm Not Blogging

  1. Because I'm teaching full time again.
  2. Because my full-time teaching position is in a new grade.
  3. Because my full-time teaching position is in a new district.
  4. Because my full-time teaching position is in a new state.
  5. Because I had to jump through 9,000 hoops to transfer all my credentials to get this job.
  6. Because I really want to be an inspiring teacher in order to honor my incredibly cooperative and supportive coworkers, my tireless and dedicated principal, and my spunky and sweet students.
  7. Because, after teaching all day, grading papers, preparing for the next day, and juggling administrative paperwork, I'm still a mom and a wife. And I really want to be good at those jobs, too.
Life is good, and hopefully I can find more time to tell you about it soon. In the meanwhile, here's an update from Adorable Stella-Ville:

When Stella counts to twenty, (which she can kind-of do), she says "bumblebee" instead of "seventeen."

Monday, July 26, 2010

FAQ'S about LOUKY

I have been asked many questions about our move from Brooklyn, NY to Louisville, KY. I have decided to address as many of these questions as possible before moving on with this blog.

  1. What is LOUKY? That's an abbreviation for Louisville, KY. This FAQ will be mainly about LOUKY, but will also deal with the following: Kentucky in general, the South in general, and the Brooklyn Baby Momma's attitude toward all of this, though not the Brooklyn Baby Daddy's, as he is his own person and stuff.
  2. Why did you move? That's complicated. Dave was laid off From Forbes back in November, and that served as sort of a catalyst for us. New York was becoming more and more expensive, the apartments we could afford were riddled with problems, traffic prevented us from being around Dave's family very often, having a kid in the city was HARD, and I felt a pull both to be near my family again after twelve years and to teach in a rural school area in need. I came from a poor, rural area, and I felt it was time to give back.
  3. How big is Louisville? The population is around half a million, although if you include the entire metro area (which extends South of the city and North into Indiana), it's over a million.
  4. How do you pronounce "Louisville?" What ever you do, please do not call it "LOO-EE-VILLE." That's just wrong. Most native Kentuckians pronounce it something like this: "Loo-a-vull." And yes, that's how I say it.
  5. Is there a Jewish community in Louisville? Uh...yeah. The mayor himself, a lifelong Louisvillian, is Jewish. There are several synagogues and even an Orthodox community. There are Jewish preschools and Hebrew schools and a ginormous JCC that even has live feeds to programs airing at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.
  6. Is there an arts scene in Louisville? Yes, my friends, we have art in Louisville. In fact, it is an epicenter for glass blowing, an incredible medium that was a big deal at my alma mater, Centre College. There are tons of galleries and museums and festivals where local artists sell their masterpieces. There's incredible theater, including Actor's Theatre of Louisville, a nationally acclaimed theater and home of many experimental and provocative works. Unlike NYC, we can actually afford to go to the theater here, which is a major bonus for a former drama major like me.
  7. And music? We know the Brooklyn Baby Daddy is a sucker for live music! Kids, we're in the land of bluegrass. Yes, there's music. Dave's even going to an open mic on Wednesday, and we have plans to go to yet another music festival this weekend. There are small blues bars and huge classical venues, there are top 40 bands giving concerts and amazing local bands that will one day be famous.
  8. What about restaurants? We know how the BBF loves their food! Louisville has a rich variety of eating establishments that we are excited to explore. And yes, you can get things like sushi, seafood, Vietnamese food, Middle Eastern food, vegetarian/vegan food, amazing barbecue, traditional Southern food, and Slow Food born of local produce. And you can eat for less than $100 a couple.
  9. Speaking of food, are you guys going to start eating fast food all the time now? NO! Absolutely not! Except for the Chik-Fil-A down the street, because I, like every New Yorker, have missed my Chik-Fil-A. But I remain dedicated to creating our own healthy, seasonal meals from scratch whenever possible and mainly patronize local establishments.
  10. Does Fresh Direct deliver in Louisville? No, but that's OK because we have a plethora of wonderful stores within a 5 minute drive. Whole Foods is so close I could shake a locally-grown, organic stick at it. Kroger, wonderful Kroger, Kroger with its huge aisles and amazing variety and incredible prices, is very near. And Louisville has so many farmer's markets and CSA's that I don't know where to begin - and they're actually, legitimately cheap! So here, as opposed to NYC, non-millionaires can eat locally.
  11. Will you drive everywhere now? Will you have to get two cars? The answer is probably yes to both. There is a convenient bus system, called TARC (Transit Authority of River City) that has a stop right outside of our apartment complex, but we'll probably become frequent drivers. However, we were driving a ton in NYC anyway because gas was cheaper than paying the subway/bus fares for the two of us ($2 per person each way).
  12. Will you be the only liberal freaks in that red state? Nope. Louisville is filled with folks as liberal as we are and way, WAY more. We found this out at the Forecastle Festival, dedicated to "music, art, activism," on the shores of the Ohio River a couple of weeks ago. There were seminars about leading a green life and grass-fed Angus burgers from cows raised a mile away and women with purple hair and circus clothes twirling around on roller blades.
  13. What are you guys going to do for money? I have a job teaching 7th grade English Language arts at a school in Bullitt County, a rural area south of Louisville. Dave is considering substitute teaching and freelance writing, as well as going back to school.
  14. OK, so I realize the cost of living is lower there, but don't you also make a LOT less money? Sadly, no. Teachers in a rural area of Kentucky make only slightly less than those teaching in New York City. And the cost of living is HALF that of NYC. Did you hear me, people? Half. I'd have to make $25,000 for us to struggle as much as we did in the Big Apple, and I can guarantee that teachers don't have it that bad here.
  15. Where will you live? Are you near civilization? We live in a lovely, two-bedroom apartment in a family-friendly, centrally located part of Louisville. We are five minutes from two of the hipper parts of Louisville, ten minutes from downtown, and close to all the stores I mentioned earlier. Our apartment has a huge dishwasher, its own washer and dryer, two bathrooms, a balcony, parking spots right in front, and a food disposal (something I've only ever seen in movies). The complex has a pool, a basketball court, a gym, tennis courts, a pond stocked with fish and brimming with ducks, walking trails, and a common house with a huge porch and free movies that we can borrow. It's rather heavenly. And the neighbors are QUIET AND NORMAL. (Wait. Did I just jinx everything?)
  16. Do people smoke everywhere? No more so than NYC, which, as Carrie Bradshaw demonstrated, is a city of heavy smokers. Smoking is banned in all public areas, like stores and restaurants, so even if there are a lot of smokers, I don't have to deal with it.
  17. Do people wear shoes? How about shirts? Yes. And yes. Nice ones. Sometimes designer.
  18. Will you ever come back to NYC? Definitely, to visit Dave's family and all our friends, if for no other reason.
  19. You sound maniacally in love with Louisville. Are you being paid off by their tourism board? I am maniacally in love with Louisville, but I am not being paid. This is the calmest and most serene I've felt in years. New York is an amazing city and, for some, it is the most perfect place on Earth. But I found life incredibly stressful there. I love hearing the crickets and seeing trees; I love having frequent and casual visits with my family; I love that people are friendly to me, even at the post office or the grocery store; I love that there's so little traffic and everything is so close; I love that my favorite stores are all here - Lush and Whole Foods and Target - and they're all within a 5 minute drive; I love how quiet it is at night; I love how funky and interesting the city is. I love it here.
  20. What will you call your blog now? I have to keep it as it is for a while, just because I'm so in love with the name. But, over time, I think I shall transition to "Bluegrass Baby Momma." Sound good?
I guess that's it, unless you want to add more in the comments. I miss my friends so much it hurts, but otherwise, the quality of my life has increased tenfold. And for my New York friends (and others) who remain dubious of Louisville's grandeur, I invite you to come visit. You won't have to sell a kidney for a hotel room, and I'll make you some red velvet cake!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Too Busy...

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. We've been busy. Busy:

  1. Moving everything we own from Brooklyn to Louisville.
  2. Moving into our fairly fabulous apartment.
  3. Trying to find jobs.
  4. Catching up with my family, particularly my brother and his daughter in from Las Vegas.
  5. Enjoying the summer by swimming in our apartment complex's pool, going to an incredible music festival on the shore of the Ohio River, taking walks to our nearby park and playground.
  6. Being happy.
Things are so wonderful and I feel so blessed. There's so much to tell you about, but not now. Some things I don't want to jinx, for sure. But I'm also just really enjoying being here. Experiencing contentment, just experiencing it - not writing about it or analyzing it or questioning it or even taking the time to share it.

But I'll fill you in, soon. Enjoy your summer, friends.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer in the City

One question I've gotten a lot about our move is: "Is it a lot hotter in the summer in Kentucky?"

This question always makes me laugh. Laugh laugh laugh. Laugh, and, of course, remember.

I remember when I first moved up here, 12 years ago, a fresh-faced, naive, idealistic college girl. It was June, and I very sweetly assumed that New York, that Yankee state, would have a nice mild summer. Summers in Kentucky tend to be in the '90's and muggy, so I was excited for a change of pace.

Of course, I was rudely awakened when I debarked my plane and found that New York is just as hot, just as sticky as Kentucky, but has added bonuses like pollution so thick that your sweat becomes black and piles of garbage that smell like death when warmed by the sun.

I remember staying in that flea-bag hotel, the one where I first experienced bedbugs, which, of course, had no A/C. (That hotel has now been transformed into a "boutique" hotel, which makes me want to vomit.) I tossed and turned in my questionable sheets, rinsed off my sweat in the coed, rapist's dream of a shower, then tried to look presentable for my $250/week job at the Ubu Repertory Theater. I'd pass a vendor as I exited the subway selling ice-cold Coca-Colas, which I could never resist.

I remember sweating constantly, even at work, which only had window unit A/C's (and not every room had one). I remember how grouchy everyone was on the street, because they were in the same boat.

Soon, I moved into my Newark, NJ apartment, which had the best and most reliable A/C of any apartment I've lived in since. True, it's also the only apartment where I frequently heard gunshots, but I was cool at night, damn it!

The next year I moved into the safety of Brooklyn, but could not afford an air conditioner with my checking account, which often read $24.15. Or much, much less. I remember going to the ATM and feeling like it was judging me for taking any money out at all.

My parents offered to buy me one, but I refused on principle. I took cold showers each night, jumping into my bed completely naked, all the windows open, hoping to pass out before I heated back up. I kid you not - the water would evaporate and I'd be sweating before I even hit the sheets. I even took a bath WITH ICE CUBES IN IT, not once, but several times. It still didn't help.

At least at this point I'd moved to a job that was air conditioned, so I had work to look forward to. I also had many friends who took mercy on me and hosted sleepovers on the hottest nights, but still. What a crap year.

Then there's waiting for a subway below ground, where the heat gets trapped. Or worse, finding that every train is overly crowded except one - one that turns out not to be air conditioned.

There are the bodegas that brag about "ICE COLD DRINKS" but then you find their fridge is broken. There are restaurants that only have weak little window units, so they're no relief. And of course you have the free, public pools, but they are filled to capacity with other foul-tempered, sweating people and you have to deal with the Parks Department bullyish employees to get there.

And always, of course, the threat of a blackout.

Anyway, yes, Kentucky is hot in the summer. But the air conditioners work there and you have more trees to absorb the heat.

And at least people pretend to be nice, even if they call you names as you walk away from them.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Addendum:

Right after I posted my entry about what I'd miss about NYC, The Brooklyn Baby Daddy very kindly reminded me that I left out something ridiculously HUGE. Food. How could I - a woman nearly obsessed with food - leave off one of my favorite attributes of NYC?
  1. I love the pizza. The fancy pizza like Patsy's or Arturo's or Grimaldi's. The pizza by the slice from a hole in the wall. Grandma's pizza. Sicilian pizza. Garlic knots. Spinach calzones.
  2. I love the bagels. It's cliche but true: no place has a better bagel. My favorite? The egg bagel from The Bagel Hole in Park Slope, untoasted (to toast is to blaspheme), with Temptee cream cheese, lox, red onion, and black pepper. Perfection.
  3. Thai food. Glorious, addictive Thai food. So many places to get delicious and affordable Thai food. Our favorite will always be Song, also in Park Slope. Their veggie spring rolls make you weepy, their spicy broad noodles with chicken are pure comfort food, their Panang curry is a thing of beauty.
  4. Italian food. Authentic, amazing Italian food that makes you want to throw a watery red sauce in someone's face. Al di la, yes, in Park Slope, is a classic. Their menu is seasonal and stupidly affordable for the quality of the food and the ambiance. Their wines are wonderful. My favorite dish is the braised rabbit with polenta. Mmm...
  5. Delis. Katz's Deli - a classic, if not the best, with surly workers and harsh neon lights. 2nd Avenue Deli - now on 3rd Avenue, with melt-in-your-mouth matzo ball soup and insanely good corned beef. And now, our new favorite, Mile End Deli in Carroll Gardens with its "smoked meat" sandwich (i.e. delectable pastrami) and its over-the-top Poutine (french fries with cheese curds and gravy).
  6. Specialty food stores that enable obsessive foodies and cook-a-holics like me to do our thing. Stores that carry raw cheeses or Indian spices or fermented soy sauce or Marmite. Stores with artisan chocolate made from horse milk (no joke) or wild boar soppressata. Wine stores with real absinthe or boysenberry liqueur or that favorite wine from Alsace that I never thought I'd see again.
  7. Coffee shops. Coffee shops that take coffee VERY seriously and make Starbucks seem like McDonald's. Lattes and cafe con leche and home-made granitas and iced coffees with ice cubes made out of coffee so your iced coffee NEVER GETS WATERY. Sigh...
  8. The Grand Army Plaza farmer's market. Brimming with toddlers and dogs and surly foodies cutting in line to get their black raspberries and kale. A place to buy the best yogurt in the world. A place to get inspired to cook with local and seasonal ingredients. Sometimes a place with live music and puppet shows. A place to see friends and taste produce I've never heard of before.
OK. That's enough. I'm getting hungry.

Oh, and one other thing. Wonderful celebrity sitings that I'm floored that I forgot.
  1. PAUL RUDD. Back when he was in transition, back before he was the major comedy superstar he is today. Sitting right in front of me and my friend, Alex, in a coffee shop in the West Village.
  2. All the now stars from my old comedy scene days. Ed Helms, known as Andy on the office, once dated my roommate and was super sweet. Tina Fey, Amy Poeler, Jack McBrayer (from 30 Rock), Horatia Sanz were all people I saw in person.
OK. I think that's it. Soon this blog will return to its parenting roots. But I guess we just have to process this here little move first.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What WILL I Miss?

We will only be Brooklyn inhabitants for six more days. And since today was a gorgeous, near-perfect Brooklyn day, it's time to make my list of things I WILL miss about living here.
  1. Dave's family and our wonderful friends. Especially you, Alex. *Sniff*
  2. Walking down the street to: the playground, the ice cream parlor, the pizza parlor, the store, the cafe, the park, the subway, the deli.
  3. Running into so many wonderful friends everywhere we go, especially in the summer.
  4. My school, PS 321 -- the colleagues, the kids, the parents of the kids, the administration, the lively and lovely building itself.
  5. Unexpected, constant, accessible, sometimes free: book readings, performances, concerts, festivals, one-of-a-kind events.
  6. Seeing famous people everywhere - John Turturro, Steve Buscemi, Salmon Rushdie, Padma Lakshmi, Susan Sarandon, Julia Roberts, Julianne Moore, Chloe Sevigny, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Ethan Hawke, Jonathan Safran Foer are all some of the ones I've spotted.
  7. Coney Island. The American Museum of Natural History. The Bronx Zoo. Central Park. The Empire State Building. The Brooklyn Bridge. The Met. Lincoln Center. Times Square. The South Street Seaport. Some things are inimitable.
  8. New York's incredibly rich history. There's nothing like teaching the Revolutionary War and then taking the students on a multitude of field trips relating to it - all within a couple of hours.
  9. New York accents.
  10. The unexpected and underrated friendliness, openness, and honesty of New Yorkers.
  11. Broadway, Off-Broadway, and, possibly most of all, Off-Off-Broadway. We don't get to see many plays anymore, but I'm so glad they're out there.
  12. Autumn in New York. There's a reason people wrote songs about it.
  13. Summer in New York. It's crazy gross and sticky, but also filled with free concerts and events that would blow your mind.
  14. Being able to tell people who treated you like dirt in high school that you live in New York City with a certain amount of snobbery.
  15. Feeling like, if you can survive this, you can pretty much do anything.
New York, I'm sorry our relationship has been so rocky. You've changed me tremendously, and only for the better. This may not be goodbye forever, but it is goodbye for now. Let's part as friends.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What the Heck is Up?

Random adorable picture of the Brooklyn Baby for no reason.


Hey there, Cyber World. I guess it's about time for an update re: where the heck we'll be living this summer...

Things have been insanely stressful and up-in-the-air here in the Brooklyn Baby Abode. Dave got called out of the blue by A Major Financial Publication with an almost-too-good-to-be-true job possibility here in NYC. So good, that we weren't sure what was going to happen regarding the move.

But, as it turns out, the opportunity WAS too good to be true, so we now officially have nothing holding us back from our move to Louisville, KY. Other than Dave's understandable trepidation, but I think it shall be surmounted.

So, here are the facts:
  1. Stella and I fly out on July 8th.
  2. Dave drives in a moving van on either the 8th or 9th.
  3. We will be living in an amazing 2BR apartment in a centrally-located apartment complex with a dishwasher, its OWN LAUNDRY ROOM (as in - in the apartment itself), a deck, storage, duck ponds, 80 acres of land, a pool, a gym, as many parking spaces as we need, a security system, central air and heat, and a park with playgrounds and bike paths across the street. Oh, and the rent is a tad more than half our current rent.
  4. I don't have a job yet, but I do have a few possibilities. This is the part of our plan that makes me crazy, but I guess I get it that nobody wants to hire me without meeting me.
  5. Dave is still determining what he plans to do there: freelance, go back to school, change career paths, etc.
I'm pretty sure I would die of excitement about that fact that, after twelve years, I'll be living near most of my family again if I weren't so stressed out about the details. I will say that I can't believe their generosity when it comes to helping us find our apartment as well as their in-advance offers to help unpack, set up and babysit. (They may soon regret such generosity.)

So, in honor of the fact that I'll soon be leaving NYC, and due to the fact that I had one of those hot, NYC days filled with piss and vinegar and aggression that caused my blood pressure to rise to around 200/300, I will now entertain you with a list of things I will NOT miss about the Big Apple:
  1. Having to park 6 blocks away - with groceries and a toddler.
  2. Alternate side of the street parking.
  3. Dripping with sweat after a hot, NYC day, and wiping myself off with a tissue to find that that sweat is black.
  4. Walking up and down 3 flights of stairs with a 30 pound toddler, a 10 pound stroller and/or 5-10 pounds of groceries.
  5. Subway trains that take 20 minutes to arrive and then are too packed to enter.
  6. Young, able-bodied men who pretend not to see me when I need help ascending or descending the stairs with the stroller.
  7. Traffic - no matter what time of day.
  8. Constant horn-honking.
  9. Aggressive driving.
  10. Aggressive walking.
  11. Carrying 40 pounds of laundry up and down 3 flights of stairs and down the street to do laundry. (Or rather, watching poor Dave do this.)
  12. Grocery stores with aisles so small you can barely fit your cart in it. And the person standing in your way ignores you and refuses to move.
  13. The smell of piss, garbage and dead rats in the summer. And sometimes the Spring, Fall and Winter.
  14. Having an awesome idea of something fun to do, and then finding out that the rest of the 8 million New Yorkers had the same idea and got there first.
  15. Having people cut in front of me in line at the grocery store, the pharmacy, the movie theater, Target, even the hippy-dippy farmer's market for crying out loud!
  16. Paying way too much $ for everything, except flower arrangements and mani/pedis.
  17. Feeling like I should apologize to store clerks for ruining their day by buying something.
That's it for now. Maybe later, after having a much nicer day, I'll make a list of things I'll miss. For now, that list only includes my friends. And good, cheap Thai food. But I've had a rough day.

To all our NYC friends - we hope to see you before we leave! To our KY friends - it won't be long. To all our loyal readers - what the HELL will we call this blog after we move?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Eavesdropping on Awesome Parenting

If you're like me, you sometimes find yourself rolling your eyes at others' parenting skills (or lack thereof). It's all too easy to point fingers and find fault in the hand-smackers, the over-indulgers, the ignorers, the screamers, the baby-talkers.

(All the while, of course, trying to forget the crappy parenting moment I had myself just moments before.)

Lately, I'm trying to find more positive examples of parenting, scenarios to file in my "TO DO" file in my brain.

Yesterday, I stopped in a pharmacy to use the ATM. As I was waiting for my account to decide whether or not I was worthy of my $40 withdrawal, I overheard a little girl, around three or so, ask her dad for a coloring book.

Dad: Do you think you deserve the coloring book based on how you behaved today?
Girl: Um...uh huh?
Dad: Well, let's think. You poked me, you smacked me, and you whined when we had to leave the park. Do you think that's the kind of behavior that earns you a coloring book?
Girl: I don't know.
Dad: We came in here to get some water. Let's get our water, and tomorrow we'll see how you do. If you have a good day, we can come back and get a coloring book.
Girl: But I want it NOW!
Dad: You heard what I said. That's that. Let's get our water and go.

I was so impressed by the dad's cool demeanor, the way he got on her level and spoke to her respectfully and calmly, the way he reminded her of her actions and set consequences for them, and the way he stuck to his guns no matter what. This type of parenting is all too rare, as far as I can tell, and I really want to remember this for future reference. His daughter learned that she can't just behave any way she wants and get whatever she wants, she learned that her actions have consequences, but she also learned that she can have a second chance.

Have you seen any great parenting lately? Have you had any personal successes that you'd like to share lately. I'd love to hear about it, and add it to my mental file!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Evolution of a Food Snob

Even uncooked, the spatchcocked chicken with lemon, thyme, onion and potatoes looks delicious.

An artful toddler plate.

This is what Stella does when she likes her food.

A pleased Brooklyn Baby Daddy.

The Brooklyn Baby Momma's plate.




It all started with Rachael Ray. Yes, Rachael Ray.

If my slightly flawed memory serves, it was my sister who told me to watch her, claiming that she was annoying yet irresistible, like pop music.

And I tuned in, making fun of her voice, of her abbreviations (EVOO), her cutesy vocabulary (sammy night), her rambling stories about herself and her handsome musician husband.

But, simultaneously, I also started cooking. I mean, her meals were easy enough, prepared in 30 minutes, and certainly better than the Amy's frozen pizzas and rice and beans Dave and I were accustomed to.

I considered myself a baker, a master of alchemy who could follow a recipe to a T and turn out fluffy, moist, rich, special-occasion food. I didn't cook. Cooking was too risky, too improvisational, too prone to disaster.

But Rachael Ray gave me confidence. She taught me how to chop vegetables quickly and accurately (while keeping most of my digits). She taught me how easy it is to make homemade dressing. She taught me how to bring a steak to room temperature before grilling it and how to correctly boil an egg.

Once I got comfortable, I became a bit more adventurous. I started watching another Food Network show, the Barefoot Contessa, and began accumulating exotic and expensive ingredients and spending hours to make complicated and delicious food indigenous to East Hampton: whole roast chicken with fennel and carrots; pancetta and fontina quiche; cheddar dill scones.

I made Alton Brown's famous turkey for Thanksgiving and soaked up the praises. I prepared a decadent Swiss shard manicotti from Giada Delaurentis and fluffed up with pride.

But my efforts at cooking were still pretty occasional and special. I enjoyed making things that were difficult and intense. I liked shopping for rare ingredients and following long recipes to the letter. I was still a baker at heart.

And then I had Stella. During those first sleepless, insane months, I barely cooked a thing. We ate a lot of frozen dishes from Trader Joe's and bowls of cereal.

But then Stella got started on finger food, and I knew that I wanted her to eat wholesome food, and to see her father and her mother doing the same.

A friend turned me onto a mom/foodie blogger whose recipes are easy, seasonal, delicious, and geared toward early eaters.

I had never really considered seasonality in my cooking before. I just bought whatever the recipe called for. But now I started perusing the farmer's markets, searching for the beets or kale or new potatoes that One Hungry Mama was raving about.

And then I became hooked. Hooked on eating what was in season, hooked on eating local foods, hooked on eating stuff I made myself, stuff that doesn't come from a box or a can, stuff that is whole and real and filled with vitamins and nutrients.

And it just took off from there. Once I started making all my own dressings, I couldn't stand the stuff from a bottle anymore. Once I made pancakes from scratch, it seemed like such a waste to buy the mix.

And, in all honesty, I was seduced by the taste. Real food, even if it's healthy mixtures of vegetables and lean proteins, tastes worlds better than anything pre-prepared.

And the more I made, the easier it got. And now, I cook dinner almost every night. And I love it.

We go to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning and buy what looks good. Then I peruse my recipes and come with a menu for the coming week. We make a list of what else we need to get, do a little more shopping and then we're set. It's good for our wallets (no impulse buys, no food going bad), good for the environment (local foods travel less), good for the economy (I love people who choose to farm), and good for our bellies.

Look, I'm not trying to toot my own horn. I am lucky in that cooking/baking is my hobby, so I derive a lot of pleasure out of this endeavor. But I do wish, much like the adorably British Jamie Oliver, that people would realize how easy and cost effective it is to cook for yourself in the hopes that we can help our country's obesity problem, environmental problems, and economical problems.

So, in addition to my shout-outs to One Hungry Mama and Jamie Oliver, I must recommend my other source for culinary inspiration: Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. Anybody who's seeking easy, simple, seasonal, healthy dishes should subscribe to this delightful magazine. It arrives every month, and I excitedly clip out my favorites. Everything I've made has made the masses cheer, and is honestly as easy as can be. Oh, and as an added bonus, almost all the recipes use ingredients you've heard of that are easy to find.

Here's our current favorite, spatchcocked chicken, from Everyday Food. It's a way to make a whole chicken in 3o minutes. Seriously. And it includes three variations, although the first - lemon/thyme with new potatoes and onions is our favorite. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Qualified to Parent?

I've decided to take my mind off myself a bit (due, in large part, to the slippery unpredictability and insanity of our lives right now). I've decided to address a topic I've been thinking about for a long time.

A couple of weeks ago, Dave and I met up with our dear friends, Coleen and Beth, to celebrate with some beers. Coleen, Beth's wife (if not by law then at least by devotion), had successfully adopted the daughter that Beth carried and gave birth to - Hazel. This was no small feat. They had been evaluated with a microscope, asked intensely personal (and, in my mind, irrelevant) questions, filled out mountains of paperwork and paid a boatload of money.

Although I was happy for Coleen, I couldn't help feeling slightly embittered at this celebration. Why should Beth's partner for life be required to adopt what is already her daughter?

In fact, it is such a difficult process that many folks, people not required to go through the same hurdles, ask why even bother?

Sadly, you have to bother, or else your child might go into someone else's custody should the birth parent pass away. Because, as we all know, same-sex partners have no freaking rights in our country.

Coleen has been Hazel's mom since birth. She changes her diapers, snuggles her, feeds her bottles of Beth's breast milk, wakes up with her, worries her head off about her, cries with delight upon looking at her. It is disgusting that the government feels the need to intervene and "qualify" her.

What would happen if dads in heterosexual relationships had to go through the same process? How many fathers would make the cut? How many wouldn't? Is it fair that they get the same parental rights without the weight gain, the sore nipples, the stretch marks, the gray hairs that come from pushing a watermelon out of an opening the size of a lemon?

Dave has been Stella's father since birth. His love for and devotion to her has matched mine every step of the way. No doubt he deserves to be her parent. I'm just glad he didn't have to "apply."

And I get that Dave's sperm led to Stella. I get that. But what about men who become fathers without the sperm donation? Men who have fertility problems or men who are with women when they give birth to another man's child. They are FATHERS, without any sort of qualification. And I have no problem with that.

Coleen and Beth aren't the only couple I know who've gone through this BS, either. My friends Shanie and Mary are amazing moms to Avner, one of Stella's buddies. I've taught many students with two moms or two dads at my school, and have never questioned any of the parents' devotion to their kids.

In fact, today, I read a student's writing piece about his family. He has two dads. His dad's adoptive sister was the surrogate parent, and he sees her regularly. His dads also foster children in dire need, and have adopted one of those boys, giving this child a younger brother. They are one of the most loving families I've ever known, so giving and so sweet. And their son, this student, is simply a marvel.

I don't know what time of bureaucratic BS they've had to go through, but it can't be pretty. So while we make some people apply and reapply and pay and strive to be parents, others get to parent without any qualifications at all. Others abuse or ignore or abandon their kids, while we make same-sex partners prove themselves to us a thousand ways.

It's just my opinion, but this type of treatment seems to be the opposite of "Family Values."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Matched by Incompatibility


The other night, The Brooklyn Baby Daddy and I were watching America: The History of Us on the History Channel (which we HIGHLY recommend, even though, as Dave has noted, I'm unhappy with how infrequently women's stories are told). We saw one of those heart-warming, deliciously optimistic commercials for E-Harmony, the sight that matches people on different components of compatibility.

We've known people who've met their spouse through this site - lovely couples for whom we couldn't be happier. But it made me wonder, where would I be today if I'd met someone with whom I'm almost completely compatible?

Don't get me wrong - Dave and I are good together. But I'm not sure, especially in the beginning, you would have considered us "compatible."

Dave grew up in a Jewish family in New Jersey - basically a suburb of NYC.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist family in a town of 1,000 people in Kentucky.

Dave tends to be very laid back about life, realizing that should a disaster happen, there's probably not much he can do to stop it, so it isn't worth worrying about.

I obsess over my loved ones, demanding phone calls upon the landing of an airplane, freaking out if a person is 30 minutes late to meet me, tossing and turning in the middle of the night from fear that a meteor will blast right into Stella's room.

Dave cherishes his time alone, and has been known to sit and read for days on end, taking breaks only to use the restroom, snack and sleep.

I get ancy if I spend too much time alone, and want to chat almost constantly.

I could go on, but fear not - I won't.

For the eight plus years I've known Dave and the almost five that we've been wed, we've challenged each other, struggled against each other, fought with each other, and made up with each other. We've considered calling it quits, called each other names, gone to counseling, pretended nothing was wrong.

But somehow, maybe miraculously, we've made it to now. A time that isn't perfect, but a time that is (mostly) peaceful. A time that isn't devoid of work, but a time that is filled with love and joy.

And, perhaps best of all, we're both better people because of it.

If I'd met someone more like me, perhaps I would have delved deeper into my binge eating, getting to a weight that is unhealthy and dangerous, rather than recognizing when I'm full and making myself stop. If I'd met someone like me, maybe I would have gotten a bit out of control with my negativity and paranoia, rather than realizing people act out of their own situations 99% of their time, and not as a reaction to me. If I'd met someone like me, maybe I would have continued to have more and more angry outbursts, rather than learning to accept responsibility for my actions and speak to people respectfully, even when angry.

I needed a lot of work. I needed to be challenged, not allowed to go along as normal. Because, sadly, I was not normal.

But my evolution as a human wasn't complete with Dave. I had other things to learn -- things like life doesn't always follow my schedule, no matter how far in advance I planned things out. Things like I can't control others' actions, no matter how prepared and sweet and persuasive I am. Things like I can't be perfect - even, in any circumstance - no matter how hard I try.

These are the things that Stella taught me, just by being special little Stella. Spunky little Stella, with her own ways of doing things and her own brand of adorable that tempt you to give into her every whim. Are my daughter and I completely compatible? Probably not - and I'm grateful for it.

And last, but certainly not least, nobody would call New York City the most compatible city for someone like me. I get incredibly claustrophobic in crowds; New York City squeezes 8 million people on its cramped shores. I adore nature - rolling hills, streams, animals; despite its great parks, New York City remains mainly a landscape of steel and bricks. I am open and friendly and thrive on people who are the same; NYC is known for its rudeness - people who are too busy or jaded or pissed off to smile or say thank you. I love to live among order and beauty and convenience; my apartments have all been tiny and dingy and filled with complications (like a laundromat that's half a mile away).

But I'm so grateful I moved here nearly twelve years ago. There's a lot I needed to learn, and I think only a place as extreme and distinct as New York could have taught it to me.

I've learned to be much less naive and much more savvy. I've learned self-preservation and defense. I've learned to be assertive and unashamed to get what I want. I've learned to express my displeasure unabashedly, without worry that someone "won't like me." I've learned to do many things on my own: install an air conditioner, get a lease, get a job, go anywhere on the subway, audition for plays, talk to celebrities, haggle with salespeople. I've learned not to allow myself to be a victim.

And although I remain excited about and dedicated to our move, I am so happy that I followed my ex-boyfriend's advice and moved New York City all those years ago. I don't know if I made it here, but I do kind of feel like I can make it anywhere.

What He Said

This wonderful blog entry by my husband, Dave Serchuk, is a must read (in my humble and completely unbiased opinion) for all expectant parents, new parents, experienced parents, people who might be parents one day, and people who enjoy back-seat-parenting others' children. I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NYC Bucket List

Louisville is definitely our future. The ball is rolling now and can't be stopped.

That's not to say that it's all neatly wrapped up and topped with a lovely bow. The list of things we still need to do include:
  1. Subletting our current apartment
  2. Securing our Louisville apartment (for which I put down a $250 deposit, let me repeat -- $250 deposit - not $1700 deposit plus first and last month's rent, plus our passports and parents' home addresses in case things get out of hand)
  3. ACTUALLY GETTING MY TEACHING JOB, which I'll need to land the apartment and pay for food for our daughter
  4. Hiring movers that aren't so expensive as to completely negate the cheaper aspects of moving to Louisville
But we're getting really excited. Just chatting with my sister on the phone yesterday, we discussed how nice it will be to visit with each other in a casual, laid-back way, not constantly thinking "I only have one more day left with them," feeling the need to suck the marrow out of each and every moment. In twelve years, I haven't been able to just hang out with my family without feeling the melancholy that comes with knowing I'll be leaving them in a short while.

And I'm also so excited to try a new city. As huge as New York City is, I feel like I know it like the back of my hand, and I want something new. Perhaps it sounds odd that moving back to my home state will be new for me, but I don't really know Louisville all that well. I lived about an hour away, in a town of 1,000 people, and Louisville was our exotic big city. Just like many suburban New Jerseyans only know the areas of Manhattan that are easy to travel to, I only know a few parts of the 'Ville. I'm excited to get to know the rest.

Of course leaving New York after living here for 12 years remains a conflicted thing for me. I had a dream the other night that I was already in Kentucky, and I realized I'd forgotten to do some New York-y things before I left. I'm leaving out the more decidedly Dali-esque parts of the dream you don't need to know about, but rest assured: that is the gist of it.

So, this prompted me to make my NYC Bucket List. I have to work to keep it abbreviated, as we don't have a ton of time, and I can't take Stella along to all of these, but I really do want to try to do them all before July arrives. Here goes:
  1. Go see the Mets play at CitiField. I love the Mets (and I look forward to eating Shake Shack food, as well).
  2. Go back to the Bronx Zoo and see the lion cubs.
  3. Go to Coney Island and the Aquarium.
  4. Go (on my own) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and pay homage to one of my favorite hangouts when I first moved here. How I love that museum.
  5. Visit my old pals, the dinosaurs, at the American Museum of Natural History. (Stella will come along for that trip.)
  6. Perform in the Moth Storytelling Slam one more time.
  7. Walk around all my old neighborhoods: the East Village, the West Village, Hell's Kitchen - revisiting my old shops and parks and cafes - such as Cafe Dante off Washington Square Park, where I wrote my play, A Counterfeit Straight. (Yes, I wrote a play in a cafe, drinking lattes and munching on cannoli. I really went for the stereotype of the small-town-girl in the big city there.)
  8. Go back to Central Park and revisit the big sights - Alice in Wonderland, the Zoo, the reservoir.
  9. Have a real beach day - probably one of the Long Island beaches.
  10. Hang out with as many of my wonderful New York friends as I can before the big day.
  11. Eat my favorite NYC food. That's an entire list in and of itself.
Making lists soothes me, and if I can complete this one, I'll feel even more happy about our move. The problem is, I keep thinking of things to add to it, and there just isn't time for everything. Oh well. I guess we'll have to come back and visit a lot. Darn.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cold Feet, Warm Heart

I haven't experienced a roller coaster of emotions like this since I was going through puberty at the same time that my mom was entering menopause.

I just went through a mini-depression about leaving NYC. Yes, me. The one who's been belly-aching about how much she hates schlepping a stroller up and down subway stairs, the one who bitches about the sour disposition of shop-keeps, the one who would sell her kidney for a parking space so she can run to the grocery store without carrying bags of veggies three blocks to get home.

This is how I roll. I make decisions pretty quickly and easily. I'm the opposite of the Brooklyn Baby Daddy who can take a week to decide what flavor ice cream he'd like to eat. The guy who agonizes over decisions and makes pros and cons lists about the pros and cons lists he's made. The one who can drive me crazy because once he's suggested the possibility of Thai food for dinner, once I've convinced myself that I'm dying for Panang curry with tofu and vegetable spring rolls, he changes his mind and says he just wants a bowl of cereal.

But there is something to be said about Dave's method. He takes a while, he agonizes, but once he's committed to a decision - he's done. Me? I commit. Then I change my mind. Then I change it back. I cry, I moan, I worry.

I could really learn something from my husband.

So, for the past few weeks, I've tossed and turned at night, worried that I'm dragging my entire family away from something wonderful. I've sighed at the Statue of Liberty as we drive across the Brooklyn Bridge. I've looked at Time Out For Kids, marveling at the fact that we could visit any number of museums or zoos or beaches on any given day, just by hopping on the subway. I've watched Stella playing with kids of all imaginable races, religions, and ethnicities on the playground, worried that I'll be robbing her of the diversity I sought by moving here in the first place.

In short, I've been a hypocritical bummer.

But the other day it dawned on me that I've done this before, and that my gut instinct has always been right. I made the decision to move to NYC quickly and easily, then agonized over it after I'd already bought my plane ticket and arranged job interviews for myself. I decided to become a teacher, seemingly on a whim, then worried that I was going to hate it as well as screw up a whole generation of kids. I couldn't wait to get pregnant, and then once I was, I twisted myself up with worry, afraid that I would be a terrible, unstable mother.

Thank goodness I stuck with my initial instincts, because they led me to this wonderful place.

So, now I'm back where I need to be. My amazing brother and his wonderful wife are going to look at apartments and houses for us this weekend in Louisville, and sometimes I have to pinch myself because for about half of what we pay now (which is already a cheap rent for NYC), we'll be living in either house with a yard or a spacious apartment in a complex with a pool and gym. I think about how easy it will be to run errands (parking spots abound)! I think about how it's looking promising that I'll get hired at a struggling rural school on the outskirts of Louisville that has a new principal who wants to turn it around - totally my career dream.

And, most of all, I keep thinking about how we can pile in the car and go see my mom, my sister and her family, my brother and his wife, friends of mine from college and high school that I've rarely seen in twelve years. I think about how we are about to become part of a village, no longer a lone nuclear family in the middle of an enormous city.

We are about to embark on an entirely new journey as a family, and I'm just brimming with excitement. I'm fully, all-the-way committed, no more cold feet.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Time Travel

In that time between waking and sleeping, strange things happen. Especially to me.

Last night, for example, I shot up in bed and proclaimed to the Brooklyn Baby Daddy that Cromwell, our cat, was glowing red with spots. As we both scrutinized Cromwell by the light of the moon, I realized that I was just dreaming/imagining it, and promptly drifted off to sleep, leaving Dave a bit dazed, to say the least.

Possibly even stranger than that, I sometimes forget where I am while in that state and assume that I'm back in my childhood bed in Kentucky, still a kid or preteen or teenager. This happened to me a few nights ago and again I shot up, panicking and scared.

Now is when this post gets a bit sci-fy, a bit Freaky Friday on you. So please, bear with me.

When I was around 16, I experienced one of the most traumatic years of my life. It's not exclusively my dirty laundry to air, but there was domestic trouble involved, a lot of yelling and instability, financial worries and a general sense of unhappiness and unease on the home front. Added to my already toiling hormones, this was not good. I gained weight (my standard response to stress, as evidenced by my current pot-belly), experienced a depression that made me look like a Cymbalta commercial, and even sort-of, kind-of, half-assedly (thank God) attempted suicide. (A stunt that landed me in the "guidance counselor's" office - the misogynist coach who needed more desk time to validate his job and told me that I'd make some man very happy one day, so I should just go ahead and live.)

I was desperately lonely, but only allowed myself to pursue romantic attractions to boys/men who were totally unavailable: my closeted gay best friend, the mopey drummer in the grunge garage band who barely noticed me, Keanu Reeves, and the like. I told myself that I was unlovable - too fat, too emotional, too bizarre to have a boyfriend. I figured that love was something I'd get later in life - when I'd lost the weight, moved away from the craziness, and "found" myself.

In the meanwhile, I'd lie in bed and pretend (this is about to get incredibly nerdy) that I could travel into the future - just for a day, and live 24 hours in my future self's skin. I'd imagine waking up in a fluffy white bed, rolling over to face an incredibly rugged and handsome man, snoozing blissfully. I'd look down at my body, marveling at my svelte belly and flawlessly tan skin. I'd look around the room, taking in its understated, elegant, cigarette-smoke-free luxury. Then my future husband, Paul or Raoul or Xavier (or even, sometimes, David) would roll over and do things to me that I'd only ever imagined or witnessed in R-rated movies at that time. Later, we'd have a delicious breakfast with our adorable kid(s) before going off to our amazing jobs (he did something incredibly lucrative and I was a Broadway actress).

I'm ashamed to tell you how many times I resorted to this fantasy as an escape from my life.

So, the other night as I drifted off, I had this uncanny feeling that I was being pulled back to the past, that 16 year old Randi was finally succeeding in trading places with her future self. And, as nuts as this may sound, for a moment I felt that I should just go, and let her experience my current life.

She might be a bit surprised. We do not live in the lap of luxury. I am not thin, nor an actress, nor do I have an easy, stress-free life. But all my dreams came true.

I'm in love with my husband, and he's good to me. We fight, like normal couples, but we've learned (and continue to learn) how to do so effectively and respectfully. We provide for ourselves and our family with no problem, even if we aren't rich. We have the most wonderful child we could have hoped for, and our lives our filled with love and happiness.

Past Randi would be relieved, overjoyed to be in my place. She probably wouldn't want to return.

And that's the thought that occurred to me before I drifted off, a shattering fear that if I did travel back and exchange places with my former self, that I wouldn't be able to get back here. That I'd be stuck there for another 18 years, waiting to get back to the life I so treasure right now.

And that's what I need to keep in mind on days when Stella won't stop fussing from the pain of teething, when the kids at my school are loud and unruly, when Dave and I argue over who should do the dishes, when I feel stress creep on me because Kentucky has not yet presented a job for me. This life may not be perfect, but it's all I hoped for, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Life Doesn't Stop...

The Brooklyn Baby Daddy is an excellent children's performer.

The cake made my The Brooklyn Baby Momma, amateur cake boss.

Stella with Daddy and her cousins. And her beloved cupcake.

A happy birthday, indeed.


So, we made our decision about moving to Kentucky and we're feeling good about it, but of course we haven't really had a chance to think about it, or plan for it, because life continues to move forward at its thoroughbred pace.

Stella's birthday was last week, and I find it incredibly hard to believe that it was two long years ago that this miraculous person entered my life. This age is so adorable, so exciting, so enjoyable that we find ourselves looking for a way to live life in slow-motion. Terrible two's? Not when your child is a good sleeper, a good sharer, cleans up after herself, constantly wants to learn, shows off to make you laugh, and snuggles with you as you read her books.

Oops. I think I just sounded like the smug parents that almost drove me to homicide during the first year of Stella's life. So let me make this clear: Stella got to this wonderful stage mostly on her own, with little nudges from us. We are not uber-parents and we don't know it all.

But we are better than we used to be. And that is a very good thing.

My mom came up from Kentucky to be with us for Stella's birthday, and my heart almost can't take watching my daughter fall more and more deeply in love with my mom. It's so endearing to hear this little New York City kid call her grandmother "Mamaw." And it makes me so excited that we'll be moving closer to my family so these types of experiences will no longer be so few and far between.

But now I find myself filled with good old Southern superstition, and I don't want to talk about it anymore. For fear that somehow, it won't happen.

So, I'll say that it's so nice just to live life and not stress out about THIS MAJOR FAMILY DECISION anymore. Yes, I still need to find a job. So does Dave. And we need to find a place to live. And someone to take over our lease. And we have to hire movers.

But at least peace has been restored in the home. And we have an adorable little girl to keep us entertained.