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."