Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's Best for the Child

One of the most difficult aspects of parenting, as far as I can figure, is balancing personal ambitions with what's best for your child. And no matter what you do, either you or your family or the rest of the world thinks you've erred too far in one direction.

You work too many hours at your hotshot career at the expense of your family.

You let your children get away with bloody murder because you never tell them "no."

You make your children go to that crumby public school because you like your hipster neighborhood.

You toil at a soulless job so you can give your child a certain quality of life.

Dave and I really want to find that balance, that perfect harmony between doing everything in our power to give Stella the life she deserves while also modeling our own self-respect and personal drive at the same time.

It's not easy. We're not even sure it's possible.

Why? Because my personal ambition directly conflicts with Dave's personal ambition. And, all the while, we can't figure out what would be best for Stella.

I'm nearly certain that my career future lies in Kentucky. Especially after witnessing the angry, misinformed masses on the news amidst health-care reform, I know it is my duty to travel back to the rural South and reform education. I cannot sit idly by and watch America become more and more disjointed, this side against that side, "good" versus "evil," people using "facts" they heard from another person who heard it from another person to back up their thinking. People have to learn to think for themselves, to form their own opinions based on reality, to not hate people just because they disagree with them.

(And before you get angry at me, I know this happens on all sides of all issues. I'm not into making this a partisan thing. I'm just saying if you're going to be against health care reform [or whatever], have a real reason why and don't let your difference of opinion cause you to yell a racial slur or want to murder someone else. There. Let's see how many more Facebook friends I lose this time.)

There are also so many issues in rural areas that go ignored. Parents addicted to crank. Extreme poverty and malnourishment. Kids (really young kids) having to help work to support the family. I would really feel good about my time here on Earth if I could know that I left the state of education in a better place than I found it. I'd love it if every kid from a town of 1,000 people in the South could get the kind of education I received (because my parents were fanatical about it).

But Dave has dreams, too. Dreams of writing for a national publication, the kind that's based out of New York. Dreams of reaching a wide audience and informing them about issues that matter. Dreams of living an exciting and amazing life, changing the world in his own way, being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the most vibrant place on the planet.

And his family is here. As much as I've missed my family the past 12 years, Dave has the same reservations about moving away from his. Not seeing his nieces grow up. Not being around should someone need him. Not being here for his sister with Down's Syndrome, for whom we are legal guardians.

And then there's Stella. What's best for her, and how can we know that it's best for her without a shadow of a doubt?

In terms of education, I lean toward the public schools in Louisville, KY, because the good public schools in New York are in overcrowded, insanely expensive neighborhoods. And should we get her into a good elementary school, she then has to apply (just like a high schooler to college) to a middle school, praying that her standardized test scores are good enough to get her into one of the few decent public middle schools because her parents have jobs that won't pay for private schools. And then we have to do it all over again for high school. And all the while, should we get her into a "good" school, she'll be surrounded by friends who have much more money than her, causing her poor mother to stress out about birthday parties and the bat mitzvah she'll one day have.

I also like the idea of her being able to play in a yard and have my family babysit her on more than a few occasions. And I also like the idea of a less stressful and more carefree life due to things like a parking spot, a washer/dryer in our house, less traffic and more available parking so we can drive to the grocery store and not schlep up and down 75 flights of stairs a day. It may sound selfish, but I do think Stella would benefit from having a less stressed-out mommy.

But Dave has many valid reasons for wanting to raise her here, too. He loves the diversity of New York and the massive Jewish population. He likes the access to museums and other cultural institutions, the prospect of an adolescence not filled with the isolation and loneliness that can come from living in the 'burbs. And he (and I) love our friends, and the community we've managed to become a part of here.

Maybe I shouldn't air our dirty laundry to the world, but I know we can't be the only family on earth dealing with such a conundrum.

And, yes, we've considered compromises, like living in Jersey, but there are a lot of reasons why we don't like them (Jersey's not cheap enough, I would teach in either a really wealthy suburban school or a really desperate urban school, and Dave's commute would be ridiculous.)

So, maybe I'm just trying to gain clarity by posting this entry. I'd appreciate it if people shied away from giving advice or telling us what's best, because this situation is already pretty difficult without us feeling pulled in 1,000 directions. Not to mention the fact that we have to figure this all out by NEXT WEEK because I have to let my school know what my plans are for next year, and I have many job applications for Kentucky that need to be finished ASAP. (No pressure or anything.)

The main thing I want Stella to see is how her parents can work together to figure out what's best for the family -- for the mom, for the dad, for her, for Cromwell and Talisker (the cats). I want her to see a loving couple that doesn't shy away from challenges but faces them head-on as a unified force. I want her to see that nothing in life in insurmountable, that any problem can be dealt with as long as you're surrounded by love and support.

I just hope she gets to learn all this while swinging on our porch swing in Louisville.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shameless: Stella's B'day Wishlist

Yep, I did this last year. And yes, it was just as shameless then.

Stella's birthday is coming up -- April 14th, and no, I can't friggin' believe that she'll be TWO -- and many friends and family have asked what she'd like. Since this is the central source of information, here it is. This is by no means a hint. We do not need stuff, thankfully. But if you want to get something for the girl and are stuck, this is for you.

Size 2T clothes, particularly Spring and Summery stuff. Stuff she can play and get dirty in. And some warm, footed PJ's.

Size 5 or 6 shoes. Particularly sneakers or crocs or sandals.

A swimsuit and other summer staples.

Books are always welcome. Feel free to contact me if you're not sure whether she has something or not. Curious George is HUGE with her right now. Elmo is still her buddy, and she loves Richard Scarry books. She's obsessed with numbers and colors, as well.

And then there are toys. We'd prefer not to have stuffed animals, but Stella would love other items like a play stroller, building toys, anything that doesn't require batteries and make tons of noise. She loves drums and other musical equipment. She also loves bath toys, particularly water-proof books.

Art supplies. And by art supplies I mean coloring books, crayons, finger paints, drawing paper, activity books, etc. And, of course, expensive canvases and some good quality oil paints.

And music. We'd REALLY love some good kids' music, and have none. They Might Be Giants or The Barenaked Ladies or The Laurie Berkner Band would be great.

I think that's a good start. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. As always, your love is Stella's favorite thing anyway.

Now we return you back to your regularly scheduled blog.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Have We Come a Long Way, Baby?

This is what a feminist looks like, sippy cup and all!

I can tell you the exact moment I became a feminist:

The first day of school, 8th grade, social studies class. My teacher, Mrs. Ryder, was a notorious Democrat in a land of Republicans. She even had the nerve to defend taxes to us Reagan-loving kids, telling us about all the important services that rely on those moneys.

Ah, that rebel Mrs. Ryder.

But the most incredible thing she ever did was pass out our American History books that fateful day and ask us to flip through them. "See how many pictures of women you can find in those books," she said, a sly grin on her face.

One. One little picture of Susan B. Anthony was all I found. Was all any of us found.

"So, do you think that Susan B. Anthony was the only one who had anything to do with American history?" she asked.

I my heart rate quicken. I felt my cheeks start to burn. And I felt the cogs in my brain start to turn. I. Was. PISSED.

From that moment on, both my BFF Amy and I proudly called ourselves "feminists." We'd write, "women rule" on our notes to each other, notes that dealt primarily with the boys we liked and whether they liked us back.

And although my family and friends poked fun at me and even tried to argue with me over the uselessness/offensiveness/ludicrousness of feminism, it was apparent to all that this was my destiny, that championing the causes of women was something that would stay with me from that point on, one day even leading me to a tiny feminist, mostly lesbian theater collective in the East Village of New York City.

I've written about the WOW Cafe Theater before because working there was one of the most important and pivotal moments of my life. I learned that there were many more issues affecting the lives of women than I knew about, global issues like genital mutilation and domestic issues like women STILL not getting paid the same amount of money for the same work as their male counterparts. And, equally importantly, I realized the importance of legalizing gay marriage, but again, that is a blog entry for another time. (I have to stop putting that blog entry off, I realize, but there's so much to talk about lately!)

But I also learned that feminism is a difficult concept to quantify and define. Is it having the same rights as men? Is it having specialized rights? Is it acting in a masculine way to overcome stereotypes? Is it embracing your femininity and maybe even using it for personal gain? Is it unnecessary now that we have the right to vote?

The conclusion I came to is that feminism means supporting women as they try to lead authentic and fulfilling lives and protecting them legally from discrimination or harm.

This means that it's fine that I love to bake and cook, that's it's cool that I tinker in knitting and sewing, that I'm not letting anybody down by having a traditionally feminine job such as elementary school teaching. I do those things because I choose to, not because I have to, because they bring me joy, connect me to my heritage, allow me to be creative, give me a chance to change the world. Not because society deemed those things appropriate or mandatory for me.

It means that it's fine that I pursued a master's degree, that I enjoy watching the NCAA tournament in the hopes that the University of Kentucky will win it all, that I make my opinions known when it comes to important political issues and that I take that hard-earned right to vote extremely seriously. These behaviors are no longer considered "male" and I am well within my rights to pursue them.

And finally, it means that I should feel free to take the subway home on a Thursday night without worrying that some guy is going to make aggressive and sexual remarks to me. It means that my career goals are as important as my husband's. And it means that I have the right to pursue my dreams and passions without feeling belittled, as in "oh, isn't it cute that this woman with her wittle ideas on her wittle blog wants to be taken seriously?"

I didn't realize how far we women still have to go and how ingrained sexism is in our culture until I became a stay at home mom in 2008.

Many educated moms make the choice to be stay at home parents these days. Even if it's a financial hardship, as it was for our family, many of us decide, for varying reasons, that it is something important enough to do. And, of course, in this economy, many women (and men) are stay at home parents out of circumstance, and they're just trying to make the best of it.

However, since we're shifting from a career to staying at home and parenting full-time, it can be a shocking and difficult adjustment. You find yourself missing time with colleagues, missing the intellectual work of your former job (which is different from the intellectual work of parenting full-time), missing the little moments to yourself while commuting or during coffee breaks. And, since a lot of us used to be writers in our former lives, we turn to blogging as a way to chronicle this incredible and transformative time, as a way of connecting with others rather than remaining isolated, as a way of expressing ourselves when a good chunk of our time is spent taking care of another.

So, why this long, rather unexpected rant rather than a new entry about Eastern-inspired recipes or tales of Stella's unbearable cuteness?

Because lately, moms who blog have been the source of much ridicule. The condescending attitude with which they are viewed just reeks of ingrained sexism, sexism that nobody thinks is sexism because it's just a part of the way our society is.

And, possibly worst of all, it's mainly coming from other women.

And this is what makes feminism so difficult. We're not technically a minority and our problems are not solely due to a dominating class. Our problems often come from ourselves and our misguided attempts to fit in to our preexisting patriarchal culture.

(Randi, this is not an undergraduate thesis. This is a blog. Reign yourself in, please.)

It all started with the article, "Honey, Don't Bother Mommy. I'm Too Busy Building My Brand." This article was written by a mom who blogs and was dealing with a topic that many of us find interesting: bloggers who try to build a brand and turn what they do into a business. However, this article was filed into the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times, not the business section, and often had a snarky tone that seemed to find it surprising that women would be entrepreneurial in such a way.

Look, I can't say it nearly as well as fellow mom blogger, Mom 101. In fact, I had no idea about the original article until I read her response and found myself intrigued and angry.

But that was just the beginning.

Then another mom blogger I know, Meredith Morgenstern Lopez, wrote her own wonderful response in The Huffington Post. And the comments on her Facebook page came pouring in. And some of them just reeked of sexism.

Sexism so deeply ingrained and subconscious that it was disguised as liberalism. *SHIVER*

Remarks like what would Betty Freidan think if she heard that many of us find being a stay-at-home mom harder than working outside of the home? I'd hope, if she's the woman I think she is, that she'd say, "You probably know what you're talking about, lady."

Perhaps I'm getting scattered. I do that when I'm angry. It keeps me from punching a hole in the wall.

But I'm so tired of this attitude that if I stay home with my child, I'm instantly an ignorant and indulgent person who concerns herself only with the volume of fecal matter I clean up in a day or how engorged my boobs are from breastfeeding. Or that I'm more valid now that I've realized that I'm a person who HAS to work outside the home for my sanity, because that means I'm doing a "real job." Or that I'm a crappier parent due to that realization, and that it's terrible that I'm letting someone else raise my child. Or that I'm so frivolous for blogging about how any of this makes me feel, since this is WOMEN'S BUSINESS, and that stuff is just SO DAMNED SILLY.

When men make the decision to stay home or are laid off, they are simply not viewed in the same matter. Nor are they judged as harshly if they go back to work. And, should a man find this time of his life amazing and worthy of writing about, he'd be applauded. And furthermore, should he decide to try to profit off of it, that would be considered industrious of him.

We women don't have the luxury of being viewed in that light. Unless you're the world-famous Dooce, a business woman who still has to deal with this crap but at least makes money off of it, people think you're being silly or terrible.

So, to conclude the most rambling of all my rants (and that's saying something), let me ask you this. Do people criticize the bloggers who created Stuff White People Like or Passive Aggressive Notes? These are people who found everyday occurrences funny and/or interesting, wrote about them, found they had a loyal following, then used that as a way to make money for themselves. Are they changing the world? Nope. But they make us laugh and keep us coming back for more.

If a mom can do that with her words, why is that funny or silly or ridiculous? At least we're also contributing to the future by raising aware and brilliant (and freaking adorable) offspring who'll make sure we get out of this environmental and financial mess, right?

Or am I just being a silly mom? Oops, gotta go, Stella's writing with crayon on the wall.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Camaraderie Curry

Camaradarie Curry

I'm sure it's shocking to hear that a New Yorker has trust issues. Especially a New Yorker with a rocky childhood straight from the Oprah show and bladee bladee blue.

Anyhow, yes, I find it hard to trust others. To trust them to do what they say they're going to do. To trust that they really feel the way they say they feel. To trust that they're not trying to get something from me and really just want to be around me for my company.

I'm a fun one to be married to, I tell you.

Most of all, I find it hard to trust myself. As my mother will confirm, I've always been incredibly self-critical and ready to jump down my own throat. I'm constantly worried that I will screw everything up, which, of course, only causes me to make more mistakes.

Now that I'm getting up there in the age department, I'm forcing myself to trust more, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me. To trust that Dave really doesn't mind giving me a back rub after he's offered it to me. To trust that my friend will meet me at 16 Handles at 7pm and won't flake out on me. To trust that, after cooking almost every night for the past five years, I know what I'm doing and won't ruin dinner.

It's funny that the people who are helping me most in overcoming my trust issues are women, because women were the epicenter of my trust issues for most of my life. Starting around 4th grade when a girl would tell me she wanted to be my BFF on Monday and then declare by Friday that I was a fat, farting retard, I found it hard to know what other females' true intentions were.

So, whether warranted or not, I found myself deeply suspicious and often envious of other girls/women throughout my life. I projected all of my insecurities and unhappiness on them, moaning about how unfair life was that other girls were naturally skinny, naturally beautiful, naturally outgoing, naturally magnetic to the opposite gender.

But now, thankfully, I'm finding that my female friends are increasingly trustworthy and generous, interesting and motivational.

I've spoken about my high school friend Tiffanie on this blog before. Well, recently, she very sweetly posted a blog addressed to me on her food-a-file blog in an attempt to help me overcome my phobia of "throwing things together" for dinner and not using a recipe.

You can read her wonderful entry here. I had planned to write up her directions in a more strict recipe format, to create a shopping list, and then add the recipe to next week's menu. (Yes, we plan a menu for each week and create a shopping list for it. This is a great way to budget, folks, and not just a nerdy move.)

But then I realized that's not the spirit of what Tiffanie's trying to teach me. So I looked in my pantry and LOW AND BEHOLD, we had almost all the same stuff she had, with just a few differences. We had no ground lamb, but we're a bit meated out lately anyway, so we decided to go vegetarian. I don't carry fennel seeds, but I love cardamom and used it as a substitution. We had no white potatoes, but three lovely sweet potatoes. We had some leftover fresh ginger that I thought might be brighter than the powder. And finally, we had some green beans that were about to go south, and I had a hypothesis that this recipe could benefit from something crunchy anyhow.

I "threw it together" tonight, and the whole Brooklyn Baby Clan went wild! And I can't seem to stop patting myself on the back.

So, I'll post my adapted recipe below, or you can use Tiffanie's on her blog, or you can use this as a jumping off point to create something of your own.

And, as I've said before, check out the other food blogs I link to for inspiration and camaraderie. In particular, the Seriously Soupy blog on my list to the right hopes to be a community of soup-loving folks sharing their secrets, so please check it out and submit your soupy treasures.

So now, without further ado, my recipe for:

Camaraderie Curry (Not Really Curry but I Needed the Alliteration)

brown rice
chicken stock
1 lb green beans, trimmed
3 medium sweet potatoes
1 large onion
1 jar of coconut milk
Kosher salt
1 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Coriander
1 - 2 T. fresh ginger
1 tsp. Turmeric
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Cardamom
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. Cayenne (we like it spicy)

Cook brown rice to package directions. I used 1 cup chicken stock and 1 cup water for more flavor.

Chop onion and sweet potatoes in to small pieces. Put a couple tablespoons of butter in a Dutch oven or large pot and turn the heat to medium-low. Once the butter has melted, add the potatoes and onions. Cover and cook until the onions are translucent and the potatoes are starting to soften.

In the meanwhile, bring a small pot of water up to a rolling boil, salt liberally, and add green beans. Blanch them until they are just tender, then drain and submerge in ice water.

Turn up the heat to medium on the potato/onion mixture, stir and add all the spices. Cook for about 5 minutes. Pour in the can of coconut milk, bring up to a simmer and cover. Stirring occasionally, let this cook until the potatoes are tender. Add the green beans and stir, cooking an additional minute.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Lengths That I Will Go To...

I recently saw a relatively crappy, box-office bomb of a movie that shall remain nameless, not only because I'm slightly embarrassed I rented it, but also because I'd be spoiling the ending for you, should you decide you want to rent the same piece of crapola.

Anyhow, it's a horrorish/sci-fi movie, and at the end, after a long, rambling, twisting plot-line, the parents in the movie have to make a choice: have the father shoot the mother in the heart, or allow their only child to live out the rest of his life without his senses of sight and hearing.

It's funny; where I am now in my life, that decision was a no-brainer. Shoot the mom, of course. How could she look at herself in the mirror, knowing what she did to her child, knowing she didn't sacrifice herself for the person she loves most in the world.

I guess that's how you know you're really a parent. When, suddenly, your own life is just MUCH less important than this other person's, and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you'd do anything to protect him or her.

Well, it's a much more minor situation, but yesterday, I fell down the steps in our duplex. I was carrying Stella back downstairs after her nap, walking carefully as I always do, when suddenly, she shifted her weight on my hip, and the hand that normally rests on the handrail needed to come up to keep her from hitting her head on the wall. Then, in slow motion (this stuff always happens in slow motion), I felt my foot slide out from under me and I felt us both being hurled into the air.

Stella was on my right hip, and I was falling toward the right. The thought of all my weight crashing down on her was horrifying, so somehow, in the air, I shifted her to the front of my body, causing us to land on my hip, my back, and my elbow.

The moments following the fall were confusing, excruciating and terrifying. Stella began sobbing, and I had no clue if she was hurt or not. I couldn't move or feel my right arm, and I was worried that I was paralyzed from hitting my back so hard. The rest of my body was tingling intensely.

I used my left arm to hold Stella and comfort her, but I was on the verge of vomiting the entire time. I really wanted to check her, to make sure she was OK, but she wouldn't let me stop hugging her long enough.

Eventually, and quite abruptly, Stella pulled away from me, stopped crying, grabbed a book and asked me to read it to her. In my current state, I know that's adorable and hilarious, but at the time, it was even more confusing and disconcerting.

I dodged her, gave her a toy to distract her, then went to the bathroom in case I vomited. I didn't, but I saw that my right sleeve was ripped and my arm was bleeding everywhere. I tried to move it, and barely could.

I'm a lucky, lucky woman that I have a loving husband who rushed home to check on me and take care of Stella. And I'm a lucky, lucky woman that I feel much better today and can move my arm almost normally. I have two major bruises on my back and my elbow is still weird, but I'm going to be OK. And I'm luckiest of all that Stella doesn't have a scratch on her.

And I'm relieved to know that, even amidst a fall, I had the presence of mind to protect Stella.

I used to scream bloody murder every time I stubbed my toe. Now I've survived both natural labor and a pretty bad fall, both in the name of my daughter. I guess I'm growing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Call to Motherhood

My Little Dream Come True

Believe it or not, I wasn't always sure I wanted to be a mom. This may come as a surprise to those whose babies I've held and rocked, parents whose children I've taught, people who currently read my Stella-obsessed blog entries and Facebook status updates.

I've always loved children, ever since I was one myself. Their openness, their enthusiasm, their loving nature -- I just revel in it. But I didn't feel the biological urge to have my own for many, many years.

My sister, Nora, bravely had a baby when she was a teenager. I was a few years older than her at the time -- 21 -- and completely shocked by the sheer amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into taking care of an infant. I was instantly, madly in love with my nephew, Daniel, but I was also floored by the volume and frequency of his tears and the amount of work it took to keep him alive and thriving. What a wake-up call, and natural form of birth control, that was. I did not ever, due to that experience, romanticize having a baby. And, consequently, didn't want one.

Until...well, a month before my wedding in 2005, I met my niece, Bethany. And then, something just clicked. I was 29 and in a stable relationship that would soon be legal in the eyes of society (since it was, luckily, a heterosexual relationship, but that's another blog entry).

I held that gorgeous lump of baby smoosh, and I knew I wanted to be a mom.

However, I was embarrassed to tell Dave. I was embarrassed that I, like the stereotype of a woman on the verge of her 30's, had a BIOLOGICAL CLOCK that decided to act up. I was embarrassed that I was an episode of Sex in the City, a completely typical woman prey to her hormones and society's expectations of her.

So, I didn't tell him. If communication is the cornerstone of a good marriage, ours was pretty shaky there for a while.

But the urge became silently stronger and stronger. I found myself ogling others' infants, smiling at their toddlers and waving at their preschoolers. In a city as suspicious as New York, this type of behavior is not welcomed.

I found myself fantasizing about how it would be to snuggle up with my son or daughter and read my favorite children's books. I found myself looking at my life -- the post-work drinks with friends, the nights of take-out Thai and rented movies, the weekends of sleeping-in and having an over-priced brunch at a restaurant with a one-hour wait -- and found it to be empty.

And it soon became clear to Dave that I had been bitten by the Mommy Bug.

Thankfully, he felt the same way, as we realized when a late period turned out to be just that -- a late period and nothing else. We weren't trying to get pregnant, and yet we were both secretly hoping I was. We both cried and held each other and realized we wanted to be parents.

And together we fantasized about family vacations, about instilling values such as empathy and open-mindedness and fairness in our offspring, about piling on the bed and tickling each other until we were red in the face.

We're lucky that after eight months of trying (which seemed, at the time, like eight years), we were blessed with a healthy pregnancy. We're lucky that Stella was born without complications and was a bouncing, thriving girl. And we're lucky that we survived the first year of her life, despite my post-partum depression, her lack of sleep, moving twice in 18 months, the lead-paint scare, the creepy (possibly homicidal) upstairs neighbor, the loss of Dave's job, the lack of family around to help us out.

But most of all, after almost two years of the blood, sweat and tears that scared me from having a baby in the first place, we're at the point of parenthood I always dreamed about. Sitting for hours on the couch, reading wonderful book after book. Taking Stella to destinations and watching her amazement and excitement. Giving her new foods to try and wiping her tears and reveling in her unexpected hugs and kisses.

Sometimes I want to pinch myself, to make sure this is all real, and not just a hormonal dream sent to me by my insistent BIOLOGICAL CLOCK.

I'm not saying life is perfect. There are still boxes of Cheerios spilled on the floor and temper tantrums at the grocery store and pages ripped out of library books, but the sweetness and excitement of watching this gorgeous, brilliant, wonderful person grow and learn each and every day makes me happy that I overcame my own silly restrictions for myself and realized that becoming a mom is worth the work, worth stepping out of my comfort zone, and a totally feminist act.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Writing It Down

Loving the snow and the snowman.

Cuteness times 1,000.

The Brooklyn Baby Family at Disney World.

Stella nearly worshiping the parade.

Woody Allen has spoken at length about how his original dream was to be a musician. Becoming one of America's most iconic and successful film makers of all time was Plan B, when he realized his talent at the clarinet couldn't really cut it. (Although now people pay craploads of money to see him perform regularly in Manhattan for his less-than-perfect talent.)

I have always dreamt of being one of those beatific, zen-like people who populate yoga classes and the Park Slope Food Coop. Someone who rolls with what life gives her, who never seems frazzled, who is too wise and calm to let life's little mishaps drag her down from her ethereal perch.

I have friends like this, people I revere beyond belief. My friend (and doula at Stella's birth), Julie, a woman who can find the good in everyone and make lemonade from the most rotten, disgusting lemons you've ever seen, comes to mind. As does my friend from high school, Tiffanie, who even in those hormonal and turbulent days always seemed to know that life was composed of more than AP US History test scores, pimply straight-edge boys and college applications.

Tiffanie manages being a mother with apparent ease and grace, finding the beauty in each and every moment. l avidly read both her regular blog and her foodie blog where she details the gorgeous meals she throws together on a whim using what she grows herself and buys at her local Berkeley farmer's market. (Again, I wish I could throw food together, but that zen-like confidence makes me nervous, so I search Epicurious and Food Network for detailed recipes for almost every dish I make.)

One thing she does as a mother is to "write it down," to chronicle those day-to-day miracles that you're certain you'll never forget, but fear you might.

I know myself. I will never be zen-like, although I do aspire to take more yoga classes and eat more whole, organic foods. Although New York exasperates me, I sadly fit in with the neurotic, control-freak, Type-A vibe here.

But one thing I can do is slow down, look at my gorgeous daughter, revel in her existence and WRITE IT DOWN.

So, for your consideration, some daily miracles I've witnessed recently:
  • Saying, "Oh, hello Romwell," every time she sees our cat, Cromwell, in the most excited and joyful voice.
  • Dancing and singing along with the parade at Disney World while the other kids around us melted down.
  • Traveling to Florida like it's no big thing, sleeping like an angel and learning our hosts' names on day one.
  • Counting to ten almost obsessively. In fact, she does everything obsessively until she's an expert at it: learning the alphabet, learning colors, climbing stairs, singing songs. I guess that's one Type A trait she inherited that's not too bad.
  • Speaking of colors, whispering in a reverent voice, "All da colors" when she sees an assortment of them, then using my index finger to point them out and name them.
  • Speaking to my mom on the phone enthusiastically, saying "Mamaw" and singing songs for her. And, of course, telling her "I lub you."
  • Being obsessed with photos of her family members, especially those far away, and knowing their names even though she rarely sees them.
  • Grabbing a book and saying "da couch," leading either her father or me by the hand to the couch and snuggling up to us while we read.
  • Insisting we tickle her. And tickle her. And tickle her until I'm not sure she'll be able to continue breathing.
  • Hugging me, really hugging me, finally FINALLY FINALLY hugging me, squeezing my neck and giving me a precious pat on my back.
  • Mocking crying when we ask her what she always said as a baby.
  • Wanting to play dress up and play with a tea set, diapering her stuffed animals and loving the color pink, proving beyond a doubt that nature kicks nurture's butt, and that I was a fool to think I could mold my child into something. Which, of course, is a very good thing.