Superstorm Sandy

As you all know, I’m ridiculously behind on posting. There’s nothing like a giant hurricane to kick my butt into gear, so thank you for that, Superstorm Sandy.

If you’re not familiar with the layout of Manhattan (I still don’t have it fully painted in my my mind by heart yet, and I’m a resident), here’s a map via NYC Tourist to help you picture the general area the was hit hardest.

Most of the flooding (in New York) was in the lower part of the island and Staten Island, which together housed the bulk of the power outages as well. We live way up on the Upper West Side–think northwest corner of Central Park (ish)–so we were significantly buffered from the storm surge. Although we didn’t lose our electricity, there were times late Monday night that Sandy’s wind battered our windows with such vigor and persistence that mike and I looked nervously at each other as if they might spontaneously combust at any given moment. It was definitely spooky.

The kids, on the other hand, didn’t seem so nervous. They spent the day playing under our dining room table turned makeshift fort.

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And watching way too many movies. And eating the Pringles, Cheez-Its, Chex Mix, and cookies we bought as emergency storm supplies.

And snuggling turned tackling turned annoying each other.

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And dancing around in hurricane boots (that he absolutely refused to take off, even for nap time).

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And roasting marshmallows over candle light.

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And staying up way past their bedtimes.

By Tuesday morning, Sandy’s remnants–lingering drizzle and 25 mph winds–beckoned us from our stir-crazy cozy quarters to check out the destruction.

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Most of the damage in our neighborhood lined the park, I’m assuming because there aren’t buildings there to minimize the strength of the wind. I snapped some photos, but, again, this was so minimal compared to the flooding and power outages downtown. The pictures I’ve seen on Twitter of the aftermath are just incredible. Here’s a snapshot of my neighborhood, though.

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We saw lots of these totaled umbrellas that Sandy must have torn from the hands of unassuming pedestrians.

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And autumn’s beauty littering the sidewalks,

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When just days ago, most of those leaves were adorning the park’s trees. If you missed my Facebook post, take a look at this collage I created that captures the magic of fall in Central Park.

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I haven’t been out yet today, and although I do know Central Park is still closed, I’m sure the sidewalks and streets have been rescued from the majority of fallen trees and branches. The subway system, however, hasn’t been so easily revived. We’re fortunate enough to be within walking distance of school and everything we need. I’m wondering, though, what folks who live in other Burroughs and make the daily commute to Manhattan by train are doing. I’m sure you’ve read this, but apparently the problem is that even after the water is pumped out of the stations, the salt affects and can potentially ruin the electrical equipment, which, in turn, takes much time to revamp and inspect. There are such intricacies to consider in the unique ecosystem that is Manhattan.

Kudos to all of you who’ve been able to contribute your time to relief efforts. I’m grateful for you! And My heart is with those of you who’ve been impacted by the storm and are still recovering–victims of flooding and fire, NYU hospital patients, family or friends of those whose lives have been taken. You’re constantly in my thoughts.

Sandy may have brought in some rough waters, but if there’s one thing I’ve observed since we moved here, it’s that New Yorkers always just keep swimming.

Thoughts and goings on

I’ve found myself doing a lot of complaining lately. A lot. About my overwhelming and ubiquitous list of to-dos.

I need to potty-train Cam.

I need to set up a grocery delivery service. We’re spending ungodly amounts of money on takeout and daily mini-trip to Whole Foods and the Hispanic grocery mart downstairs. (I’ve found a huge downside to not having a car–the inability to schlep the kids and a week or two’s worth of groceries home by foot.)

We need to get student health insurance nailed down. Long story short (and please excuse the fact that my following statement sounds ridiculously subjective), the Army really screwed us on this one. I won’t even get into the story, just trust me.

I need to find a way to hang all of our shelves and pictures that are still not up (after more than two months of living here) on our cement walls that cause nails to simply bend when hammering is attempted.

I need to finish Cam’s preschool applications (which are due a year in advance and require essays, tours, parent interviews, admissions’ observations of Cam’s interaction with their students, and financial aid applications for their average $10,000-a-year tuition–unjustifiable, don’t get me started).

I need to make time to build relationships with other women and moms in the city so I feel more connected in this crazy, stressful place.

I need a date with Mike. He’s so incredibly busy with school and studying and any time we’ve spent together has either been with the kids (which has still been few and far between and is typically stress-filled) or at business school functions. I miss him. I miss the not-stressed-out him. Like crazy. And I miss the not-stressed-out me. I often daydream of a leisurely picnic date with champagne under a tree in the park, or a second honeymoon on an exotic island. It’s been months since we’ve had a real date, just the two of us. Sigh. Maybe someday.

I need to do the ridiculous amount of laundry that collects (crazy quickly) because we don’t have a washer or dryer in our apartment. How is one supposed to lug (at least) four loads of laundry and two babies to our building’s basement at the same time?

I need to post on my blog more frequently.

We need to buy storage pieces for the mountains of clothes stacked and strewn about our bedroom thanks to our next-to-zero closet space.

I need to autumn- and winter-ize the kids’ wardrobes. Where are all if the consignment stores in this city?!

I’m sure I’m forgetting some, but you get the point. all of those things on top of the daily breakfast-, lunch-, and dinner-ordering making, baby-feeding; diaper changing; nap-forcing; house-cleaning (which is sustained for all of two minutes); dish-doing; kid-engaging; keep-cam-from-pummeling-Kate-ing, etc.–can wear a girl out. It starts feeling like I’m in the eye of a tornado.

And although I originally created this blog to act as my catharsis, I’ve been thinking, Kendra, you don’t have time to write for pleasure. Besides, your readers don’t want to know about the mundane stresses in your life. They want something entertaining. They want to read about New York!

But, in actuality, I received more traffic and engagement from my simple poop-text post than from any other post I’ve written. I’ve concluded that you want what’s real. And I want to write about what’s real (without airing too much of our dirty laundry. Or, ironically, our clean laundry that we finally broke down and paid to have picked up, washed, dried, folded and delivered. Don’t judge.)

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And although I know there are super moms out there who can look calmly at the to-do list and consistently chip away at it a little at a time, I’m the kind of mom that gets super stressed, stuffs it all into a little compartment in my head, sticks a cork in it, and takes the kids to the park to escape instead. And then has an explosive, meltdown, crying session to her husband as the bottling becomes too much to handle.

I think, how on earth did we believe we could make it in this city with two very dependent children during business school–a time when even single people (who comprise the vast majority of the student population) struggle to stay on top of things? But why can’t I handle this? I should be able to do this. I’m used to moving (we’ve done it seven times in the past six years). I’ve dealt with Mike being deployed for months at a time; I should definitely be able to handle his being so busy and distracted now.

Then again, we’ve never had two babies on top of a move. And we’re finding that both of us being incredibly stressed is extremely tough on a relationship. I start feeling like Mike would rather be at school than here and he starts feeling like nothing he does is ever enough. We both feel like the other isn’t being supportive enough. There just ends up being a disconnect that adds even another element of stress to our already stress-filled lives.

Even Cam can sense it I think. Last weekend he woke up early and upset from his nap and and came running out of his room crying. I asked him if he needed a hug, to which he replied, “No!” A kiss? “No.” Your blankie? “No.” Do you want me to hold you? “No.” And then he looked at Mike. “Daddy hold Momma.” It’s interesting how intuitive kids can be.

So we’re working hard on communicating effectively. And on being present when we’re with each other. Because as hard as it is to be present when a million other stressors are distracting us, it’s so incredibly important in making one another feel appreciated.

And I really need to start following in Mike’s footsteps and doing mindfulness levitation meditation in the mornings.

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He’s awesome at not dwelling on things and just finding ways to solve the problem–(I actually get crazy frustrated about it when he tries to do the same for me–sometimes, a girl just needs to vent, right?). I, on the other hand, am better at just complaining about my problems.

I’ll be better at solving them, I tell myself, when Kate starts sleeping through the night. No, she’s still not sleeping through the night (a problem in and of itself). I can’t even remember the last time I got more than a three-hour stretch of sleep in a row. I wonder sometimes if there will ever come a time when my head no longer feels foggy all day long. (Seasoned mothers, please give me some hope!) Ah, another thing to daydream about.

So, as you can tell, I’ve been doing way too much complaining and feeling sorry for myself. And having realized it, I’ve started to feel super guilty. Are you kidding, me?! I’m living in New York City without a job! No one has this opportunity!

So as I opened my inbox a few weeks ago, I noticed a routine email from ONE–a non profit organization that works to fight global poverty, specifically in Africa. I’m on their list-serve and have been a member for years, but have never really actively participated. So having the guilty conscience I just told you about, I opened the email, hoping to get involved somehow.

It suggested I apply to help support them during the Social Good Summit, going on in NYC during United Nations Week. I had to write a simple essay stating why I should be selected. Well, I clumsily typed with my left hand while whisking Kate off the floor just in time to save her from getting clobbered by Cam as he yelled “horsie!” and ran to jump on her back.

I got an email the following day credentialing me access to the summit and its digital media lounge, a room specifically set up for press and bloggers to use during the conference. I really had no clue what to expect, but figured it would give me a chance to hear some amazing speakers, meet some cool people, and get outside myself and my own problems.

The message behind the conference was that, with such immediate access to the technology we all have, it’s time to start a global conversation to address the world’s issues. Why not if we’re so able to?

After posting my excitement about the conference to Facebook, Libby Hoppe, a high school friend and managing editor at Collinson Media and Events, asked if I’d be interested in doing some freelance work and profiling the summit for one of her publications. It ended up being a perfect fit.

I was going to the conference anyway, plus it would give me a deadline to contribute to the global conversation that was so encouraged there. Although the money I’d make from freelancing would probably end up being a wash after paying for a babysitter for a few hours each day during the event, it would give me a chance to do something I love, justify getting out of the house by myself, and boost my resume. I’ll let you know when it’s published so you can take a peek at my article (if you’re interested of course). I’m an official freelancer! I’m heading to a social event tonight to do a site write-up for another of her publications. It’s really an awesome gig!

But back to the summit. A couple of things that were said there really stayed with me. The first was stated by Hillary Clinton as she addressed attendees via live video. “We’re living at a time where anyone can be a diplomat. All you have to do is hit send.” It’s so true, isn’t it? The Internet ha given each of us such a powerful opportunity to use our voice and truly be heard. It’s pretty amazing and incredibly empowering when you think about it.

Maria Bello, actress and activist, shed the second piece of brilliance that stuck with me. “We serve best by doing the thing we love most.” Also so incredibly true. Maybe you’re sharing your humor or lovely personality with those around you. Maybe you’re being the best mom you can possibly be. Maybe you’re writing and delivering a unique perspective to someone who needs to hear it. It was an enlightening thought to ponder. Check out this post from Mom-101 for more in-depth thoughts about Maria’s words.

I met a fellow ONE activist there–Mariama Petrolawicz, also president and cofounder of There is No Limit Foundation–who is a former runway model from Guinea. She used her passion for fashion to start empowering women from her home country by partnering with them to create unique fabrics–fabrics now being used for designer Tory Burch’s 2013 spring collection. How cool is that?

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Even though starting my own nonprofit foundation is not something in my immediate life plans right now, I came out of the weekend feeling overwhelmingly grateful and inspired. Grateful for the opportunity to take in the words of such contributing members of our world and so inspired by all they’re doing. Although Nobel prize winners and celebrities and world leaders and CEOs and doctors consistently filled the stage, they made me feel like every single person on this earth has the ability to make an impact in some way, and that’s what it’s all about.

So in hopes of staying inspired and not complaining so much, I’m going to leave you with a post from my dear friend, Caitlin of Cait Finding the Fresh, about an awesome initiative from expert Shawn Achor about how to start changing the way we think. Check out Caitlin’s post about it, The Happiness Advantage. And check out this one she wrote about another happiness initiative started by our dear friend, Lea.

I want to be consistently grateful and present for all of life’s wonderful things, starting with what’s most important to me–my beautiful family. Cam just had his second birthday. My babies are growing up before my eyes and I need to be present to cherish these moments with them.

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Will you join me in the challenge? How do you change your way of thinking when you’re overwhelmed?

Dreamers vs. Realists: It all starts earlier than you think.

Observed this morning on the playground:

Two little girls–I’d say five or six years old–playing in the sandbox. They have a giant water bottle filled about half way to the top with water, and they’re scooping sand into it little by little, intermittently mixing it with a stick.

A little boy of approximately the same age runs over. “Wow! What are you making? I want to help!”

The girls glance up but don’t give him much acknowledgement. They continue to work on their concoction.

He makes another attempt. “Oh yum!” he says.”It looks like spaghetti and meatballs and giant slices of watermelon!”

He grabs a stick and runs behind one of the girls who is stirring. He hovers over her shoulder, trying to get a better look. “Let me help! We can make cupcakes, too!”

The girls look up at him, noticeably irritated. “No!” they say. “Stop it! We’re not making any of that stuff!”

The boy looks puzzled.

“We’re making dirty water.”

Art

It so amazes me how my devilish little angel can go from this:

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A polite, brilliant, intent little artist coloring pictures of, and I quote, bird, sun, scary monster, train track, and camel (I’m assuming he went with the abstract interpretation) while Mommy makes lunch.

To this:

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A crazed graffiti vandal hungry for a thrill while Mommy puts Kate down for a nap.

Come to think of it, our fridge was in need of a little makeover.

I’m not a person who’s been able to come out of a day of travel with my kids and have a positive outlook on things (yet), so as we stepped off the plane after what seemed like an endless morning of flights, a layover, and delays, my perception of our approaching life in NYC was far from rose-colored. After we arrived at the airport, packed our exhausted and relentlessly whining kids, their carseats, three suitcases, a pack-n-play, and a diaper bag into our car, we drove the hour-long commute to the city. It was scorching hot and clouds overhead suggested an impending storm, which, at the time, seemed as if it were an omen for what lie ahead.

As our driver turned the corner to our street, dilapidated buildings defaced by bar-covered windows loomed across from our complex. And my jaded point-of-view only worsened as we entered the unit. We rode up to our apartment in a rickety elevator that was pungent with the smell of urine. As the doors opened to our floor, the words “People who do drugs go to hell before they die” crept off a bumper sticker situated above pictures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary on our neighbor’s door. We walked into our apartment sweating and ready to fall over. The floors were covered with dust and crumbs, the bathroom looked like something out of a horror movie, and the air was heavy and sweltering. The place didn’t have central AC and the hardware stores down the street were sold out of window units. I was on the verge of a meltdown.

The first few days were admittedly rough. But it’s amazing what a good night’s sleep and a sunny forecast can do for your spirit. Because, now…

Now.

I can genuinely say that we’re falling for this life and this city. Although I’m not sure the architecture across from us will ever look inviting, the Children’s Aid Center, playground, and basketball court directly in front of it pops with color and welcomes visitors, and sounds of whistling refs, squeaks of high tops, and cheers from an always spirited crowd drift up to our window each evening. And then again from a tad rowdier crowd around 2:00 am during late night pickup games.

The bumper sticker on the neighbor’s door was apparently placed a couple of decades ago by her then-preteen son. Our floors are now presentable but definitely jump with personality, and an ivory and blue tweed chevron shower curtain spruces up the bathroom a bit. And we’re very gratefully cooled by borrowed AC units from Mike’s dad. The high ceilings, tall windows, airy rooms, and long hallway give the kids space to roam, and unique details like the chevron-patterned hardwood floor tiles and the glass-paned door that opens to our living room exude character and make this place our home.

The elevator still smells like a urinal most of the time, but surprises us once in a while when the doors open and it smells like someone had just been hotboxing in it (not that I would know from experience what that means). Ahem. But, it’s amazing how easy it is to get over the imperfections of living quarters in this city. As much as I’d have loved to have spent our past month here site seeing, we really haven’t made it very far past our ten-block radius.

We’ve done a few cool things like visiting the American Museum of Natural History, which, by the way, is absolutely massive and overwhelmingly grandiose (like much of the city). We bought a season pass which will be a blessing in the winter months.

And we took our first family subway ride downtown to High Line Park, which was such an adventure for Cam (he thought he was riding Thomas the Train; who wouldn’t be elated?).

If it hadn’t been so crowded I’d have taken a picture of him–tiny him–holding the pole in the subway car so tightly with his little hands. It was one of the cutest things I’ve seen. We arrived in Chelsea and stopped so he could play at a waterside park and explore Chelsea Piers. He was enamored by the boats and breadth of the water.

And then we made it up the cool yellow elevator to the High Line, an historic freight rail line turned public park, elevated above the streets of Manhattan’s west side.

We didn’t get to walk the entire length, but it was 100% worth the exhausting morning trekk–a must if you’re ever in NYC. The buildings, the artwork, the skyline–breathtaking.

Mostly, though, we’ve been exploring the little nooks and crannies of our area. Central Park is basically and luckily our back yard, so we spend our time splashing in its plethora of sprinkler parks and playgrounds,

discovering the rocks and waterfalls and ponds hiding around every path’s turn,

and strolling to Columbia’s gorgeous campus to roam freely. If you haven’t been, it’s also a must if you’re in the city. Its space just breathes grandiosity and academia. It’s a feeling of magnificence to stand between its two giant libraries decorated with towering columns, the names of infamous philosophers, authors, and play writes inscribed above them. Cam loves to play on the steps, splash in the puddles along its brick paths, and check out the sculptures that keep lookout over the area.

And, of course, we’ve been hanging out at home trying to establish some sort of schedule amid the whirlwind of changes. Turns out, routines and naps are pretty important for parents who have only two bedrooms and whose daughter is asleep in theirs kids especially when their lives have been turned upside down.

Mostly, though, we like to be venturing the streets. And may I please mention that I love–love–not having a car. Plopping the kids into the stroller and heading straight out the door to get anywhere we need to be, in my eyes, totally beats dealing with car seats, waiting for the car to cool down or heat up, filling up with gas, etc. (although I might be singing a different tune on a biting cold winter day or on a walk through a torrential downpour).

It is purely delightful, as any parent knows, to watch your child learn. And there is just so so much to experience here. Cam was definitely overwhelmed by it all for a few weeks, but the songs and sights of the city are becoming second nature to him now–the red flashing firetrucks, the squealing of the braking buses, the hot lingering smell of garbage, the chatter of dozens of languages being spoken along our block, the bustling deli at every corner, the jazz or rap blaring drifting from our neighbors’ parked cars on the street. It’s all becoming a familiar scene. Are there flaws? Yes. But I think we’re learning that they’re part of NYC’s character; the opportunities and experiences make it easy to accept them. We’re falling for this city.

So, now that we’re settled, it’s time to start the grueling process of preschool applications for Cam. I’ll post soon, but I’ve been warned that it’s basically on par with the work that goes into college applications. Wish us luck!

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My Amateur Take on BlogHer ’12

Last Monday morning, after I put on my daily uniform of a workout tank and running shorts, I sipped my cup of coffee and scrolled through my emails. I clicked on my weekly dose of Mom-101. “12 BlogHer tips that no one else will tell you.” Hmmm, I thought. BlogHer? Must be some conference for the pros. I Googled it anyway. Nice! It was open to anyone who considers herself (or himself) a contributor to the blogosphere. And it was being held in NYC. ALL Mike and I had been discussing since our arrival in this city was how important it was for us to seek out the millions of opportunities here that would be hard to find anywhere else. This could be my very first more-than-an-hour-away time from both kids! But, dammit. I got rid of all of my pumped milk in the move. Not to mention, $300 was a lot of money to spend on a conference devoted to something I was just getting into. Maybe I can just get a one-day pass and pay the $150. Ugh. Still a lot of money. Mike agreed, though, it was something I had to do. I needed to make some friends and spend time away from the kids doing something I was passionate about.So I went back to my Mom-101 post. Her first shard of advice: “Dress to impress.” Ugh. I was reminded of my need for a wardrobe overhaul. I’m coming off of almost two years straight of being pregnant. Almost all of my pre-pregnancy clothes are out of style, and the above-mentioned uniform comprises practically my entire post-pregnancy wardrobe. And makeup–what’s that? I had worn it once since moving here.

But I did have my favorite, classic navy-colored, go-to, confidence-exuding wrap dress that I’ve worn to anything important over the past few years. I could make it work. I packed the babies into the stroller and trekked a few blocks down from our apartment to TJ Maxx. I grabbed some nude-colored wedges, a not-too casual, not-too-fancy nude purse adorned with a little trendy fringe, and decided to save some money and go with some mint-colored earrings I already had lying around at home. Lastly, I swung by Albee Baby to snag a simple hand-pump (yep, Hilton prepared a suite to be used as a lactation lounge for nursing/pumping women at the conference). I was ready!

Friday night, I browsed the BlogHer website to see how everything had gone down that day and what I had missed. Are you kidding me?! President Obama did a surprise live video blog with the women and men at the conference?! And I missed it?! This thing was a big deal. Much bigger than I’d anticipated.

Saturday morning arrived. I stepped out of my apartment and stood on my stoop feeling fresh, put-together, and independent. As one of the women I would meet later that day put it, my cool-factor had gone up a notch walking the streets of NYC knowing I had become part of the city. I was a Manhattanite! And I felt like one. I took in the fresh air along the sidewalk of Central Park West as the breeze slightly billowed through my dress. I ventured down into the muggy subway station to jump on the C train to Columbus Circle where I would strut through the streets and skyscrapers of Midtown to the Hilton New York.

As I picked up my conference/party pass at the registration desk, I looked down.

Kendra Canty
Momma’s Ruby Slippers
http://www.mommasrubyslippers.com

I felt so important!

I headed straight for the lactation lounge to make sure I could work my pump (of course I hadn’t thought to do that before arriving). A few moms began to trickle into the suite here and there.

Anna of Girl With Blog was the first person I met. She writes with simple honesty about the beauty and difficulties of faith, family and day-to-day life. We chatted a bit about parenting and she asked if I had pictures of my babies. What a great way to begin a conversation, right? What mom wouldn’t jump to show off pictures of her babies? After I expressed my anxiety about the day and Anna offered some tips on how to approach the conference, networking, and getting my blog off its feet, she gave me her card and asked for mine.

Wait, card? It was my first major amateur mistake. Do not show up for an event based around networking and not have a business card. She was totally understanding and reassuring, though, and asked for my Twitter handle. Phew. I had that, but had composed maybe five tweets and didn’t really get the whole concept of it. So she tweeted me and gave me some pointers. Such a wonderful person to have met.

The day passed incredibly quickly and I was able to meet so many other lovely women. There was Lisa of The Parent du Jour, who I met in the bathroom. She’s doing a project through her online magazine to tell the stories of today’s families—one day, and one parent at a time — and anyone is invited to participate. Check. Participating!

There was Kim of Find Your Fit who, as a nutritionist and fitness specialist, blogs about nutritional counseling, exercise advice, and help in becoming more wholly healthy and happy. (I definitely picked her brain for longer than she was probably hoping for!)

I chatted with Rachael of The Variagated Life who writes beautifully and artistically about finding balance as a work-at-home mother, parenting, feminism, and making small changes toward living in accord with the environment. We lunched together with her 5-month-old baby boy as we watched and listened to Katie Couric, the day’s keynote speaker, talk with BlogHer’s cofounder about motherhood, her career, womanhood, balance, and the upcoming Katie Show which debuts in September.

I attended an incredibly thorough, organized, and all-around delightful session about video blogging (aka vlogging) headed by the charming Catherine McCord of Weelicious, who vlogs about fresh, fast, family-friendly recipes, and CJ Bruce of the video commerce network, New Antics. They totally made me excited to try my first vlog post, so I’m thinking I might give you a tour of our new NYC apartment (and ask for some decorating tips in the process!) as soon I can get the final unpacking touches together.

At the vlogging session, I hung with Elizabeth Wilkins, editor of Empowering Parents, an online magazine that helps parents change their children’s troubling behavior. She introduced me to the bubbly Meredith of Meredith & Gwyneth, the New Yorkie. Meredith writes about how she and her doggie make NYC feel like home, from style to decorating to recipes and DIY. It’s a crazy addicting site and I’m hoping to get to know her a little better since we’re both NYCity dwellers.

And, to serendipitously go full-circle, I ended the night meeting the lady who led me to this awesome conference: Mom-101 herself, the lovely Liz Gumbinner. This woman is just truly an inspiration to me. Publisher and operater of three different extremely successful online businesses including Mom-101, Cool Mom Picks, and Cool Mom Tech; vice president and group creative director at the advertising and digital agency, Deutsch; freelance writer contributing to every smart and successful parenting site out there, frequent media guest and conference speaker; mother; wonderwoman; the list goes on; she does it all.

And, yet, she still had time to have a very down-to-earth conversation with me about being a newcomer to the city, introduce me to the lovely Isabel Kallman of the popular and successful site, Alpha Mom, who also gave me helpful and genuine advice about the city, answer my emails within hours of my sending them, and extend an offer for advice or help if I ever need it. And she’s a New Yorker!

I’m so grateful to have met such an authentic, welcoming group of women in just the second week of being here. I can’t wait to see what other amazing opportunities this city has to offer.

And there is no doubt about it. I’ll be attending BlogHer ’13 next year in Chicago. The whole conference. And I’ll bring business cards. And maybe even wear some ruby slippers.

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Five interactions to keep your inner dragon at bay

Last weekend, I did a little calculating.  I’ve been pregnant or nursing for more than two years now which means my social life has also been very limited for more than two years. So naturally, I took it out on Mike.  He came home from work on Friday and said, “I forgot to mention I’m planning to meet up with Matty [his former roommate and longtime friend] tonight. He’s just in town for the weekend. Do you mind?”

I felt my horns, scaly green tail, and fire-breathing snout begin to grow. My being in utter limbo without a car (we sold one since we won’t need them in the city and he’s been taking the other to work) for the last two weeks has made me extra reliant on his company in the evenings and on weekends.  There are lots of times as a stay-at-home mom on regular days with a car to use for errands and  play dates that I still find myself looking at the clock and thinking, “Only 2:00? Still three more hours till Mike gets home. Ugh.” And to Mike’s defense, he spends almost every free second with me and the kids, so he definitely doesn’t get out enough, either.  But on Friday, in my mind, that was completely overshadowed.

Cooped-up days of scrounging to find screen-free activities, zero kidless social time, and months of sleepless nights of nursing crowded my mind. But, rather than going the direct route, I took the passive-aggressive one.

“I thought all of us were meeting at the park for a play date tomorrow?”

“We are,” he said.  “But we wanted to meet up tonight too so we don’t bore you guys with all of our catching-up talk tomorrow.”

Smoke drifted from my nostrils. “And you decided to tell me about this two hours before you’re supposed to meet him?”

At this point, I became full dragon; I became The Hulk.  I could feel my green muscles ripping through my shirt with rage.  I won’t bore you with the details from the rest of the conversation, but you can imagine the argument that ensued. I’m still not sure whether it was the not telling me of his plans in advance or the jealousy of not being able to go out that made me lose it, but in the end, the conclusion we came to was the need for both of us to socialize.

Mike will be getting out a lot (and by a lot, I mean that I’ve been warned to basically accept that happy hour will be a mandatory class for him) in NYC, and I’m hoping I’ll soon be able to get out and about more often, too.  Although Kate is still waking every three hours during the night (can you believe that?), I’m hoping that since she’s started warming up to a bottle that I’ll be able to get some time away from the kids.

Mike and I have become pretty good at diffusing our arguments (he’s better at it than I am).  Marriage has been like the merging of two “cultures” for us–opposite personalities, upbringings, experiences, approaches, and, not to mention, we know men are from Mars and women are from Venus–but, in the end, we both want the other to feel supported.  We are a team, after all, and we share the same core values.  And, oh yeah, we happen to love each other.  So together we came up with five interactions that we want to do a better job of incorporating to enhance our well-being. Here they are, not arranged in any specific order.

1.  Kidless friend time. We each need time away from the family to spend with our own friends.  To laugh, to vent, to reminisce, to share. Is there anything more refreshing than a good sesh of x-rated girl talk? 🙂

2.  Date time.  I think we’ve been on two one-on-one dates since Kate was born. And both times, we talked about how rejuvenating it was to have long, meaningful conversations together without my worrying that Kate would wake up, without the computers or TV enticing us to them when the kids are in bed, just the two of us talking over dinner, drinks, or coffee.  We fell in love over such conversations, after all.

3. Couple-friends time.  It’s important to us to have a shared social outlet.  There’s research that finds having strong social relationships to be the biggest contributing factor to a person’s happiness.  It’s fun to have friends you can share together.

4. Out-of-the-house alone time. I think everybody needs time away from being mom and wife and daughter and sister and friend to just be.  Even if it’s just to read a magazine, drink a coffee, run an errand, meditate, or exercise.  It’s amazing the way just a thirty-minute chunk of time to yourself can nourish your soul.

5.  Family time.  On evenings and weekends with two kids, we often find ourselves each taking a kid and splitting up to get errands run, etc.  It’s important to us to have family time, just being, enjoying this fleeting phase in our life together as a whole unit.

What are the interactions that enhance your well-being?

Family Photoshoot Time

A couple of months ago, we did a family photo shoot with the truly talented Rachel Humphrey of Rachel Andrea Studios. Since then, I’ve been bursting with excitement to share the pictures with you. We did the first shoot at the Ewing and Muriel Kauffman Memorial Garden of Kansas City.    Trying to get Cam to stand still or smile for more than a split second for a picture was a challenge, to say the very least. There was obviously way too much exploring to be done to act silly.

So we did lots of hunting for ants,

     

and splashing in the fountain,

      

 and working our butts off to get him to crack a grin.

   

But he just wasn’t having it.

Until….

A  set of twin babes took a break from their own photo shoot to give him some attention.
He got to  show his flirty side.

 We wanted to throw some extended family pics into the mix as well.  Cam relishes in his time with his uncles, auntie, and grandparents so it was important to us to capture this special time in his life with them.   

Mike’s mom, brothers, and sister-in-law came to see us for our babies’ baptisms, and we knew it would probably be the last time both sides of our family were all in one spot.

And we had to get a shot of the five Canty boys together. As the guys gathered for the photo and Rachel adjusted her lens, she looked up and said, “I was going to tell you to give your best male model stance but you’re all actually doing a really good job already.”   Hmmmm….they definitely haven’t spent much time practicing. Ahem. Knowing these four bros, my sister-in-law and I looked at each other and couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Love them!

I adore this photo from our second shoot. It just perfectly depicts our life right now–Cam running/hopping/skipping/floating ahead as we chase after him with Kate attached to my hip.  She’s emerging as our little people person (happy as long as she’s being held) while Cam has always been our little explorer.

He loved running up and down the boardwalk and throwing rocks into the lake. Typically, the park is filled with geese that will eat right out of your hand, but we couldn’t find them that day. 

      

Such a photogenic guy.

And Kate was in great spirits, too. Don’t you just want to take a bite out of those dimply thighs?

 

I loved the park shoot because Rachel was also able to snap some great family shots.  It’s always tough to get candid photos of the four us without Cam wiggling to get away or sticking his finger in his nose. He was such a good sport.

 

I know I won’t be able to capture our approaching journey with the same artistic touch as Rachel, but these snapshots definitely make me want to document often. It’s hard to believe two months have passed since we took these pictures and that a full year has sailed by since we navigated our way back to Kansas from North Carolina. With as quickly as the time has flown here, I can’t imagine the speed a New York minute will bring.

City of dreams or city of cynicism?

Phew! We’ve moved out of our KC apartment and are just a couple of weeks away from our big move to the city (we’re staying with my parents until then). I can’t even express what a relief it is to have the first chunk of the move over with.  And most importantly, of course, it’s allowed me to put the beloved check marks in almost all of my “to do” boxes.  Is there a task more satisfying?

But I digress. Because we’re in a sort of limbo, I’ve been struggling to come up with writing that’s interesting enough to share with you. I considered sharing my excitement about Kate finally (kind of) taking a bottle thanks to the Mimijumi a friend suggested.

And then I debated doing a review of my new and truly awesome “car” for the city, the Baby Jogger City Select, which my fellow mom blogger friend, Caitlin, recommended.

I also deliberated joining the bandwagon of moms posting about their must-have travel gear for the summer.

ZZZZZZzzzz.  I know.  Every time I opened my laptop to begin a post, I felt like snoozing.  Instead, I started reading Adam Gopnik’s Through the Children’s Gate (NY Times book review here), a book about making a home in New York.  And it totally inspired me to write.

I’m only on page 10, but I just have to discuss some of my thoughts on his thoughts.  He’s truly poetic.

He says of the city, “Even when we are established here, New York somehow still seems a place we aspire to.  Its life is one thing–streets and hot dogs and brusqueness–and its symbols, the lights across the way, the beckoning skyline, are another.  We go on being inspired even when we’re most exasperated.”

That’s what excites me.  That “energy of aspiration” he talks about.  The feeling that there’s always something spectacular hiding around the corner–an incredible opportunity, a new found friend, an undiscovered date spot, a magical place for the kids to explore–there’s just so much to experience.

What scares me though, is the contrast between that romantic perception and what reality could be.  He also says of the city, “Encompass it, if you can, but when we try to do New York, it does us and sends us reeling back home.”

I feel like the closer we get to our move, the less skeptical I become about our life there.  My perception becomes the more romantic one–we really can make a home there.  And I’m hoping that, since I’m going in without my guard up, the city won’t swallow me whole and digest my idealism.  I really don’t want to become a cynic.

Do you perceive the city as having what Gopnik calls “the energy of aspiration” and/or “the spirit of accommodation”?  Do its energy and spirit harmonize to create balance or contrast to create frustration and cynicism?

I’ll contemplate it myself as I finish the book, and in the meantime, I’ll be trying to soak up every last minute in Kansas watching my babies love on my parents, sister, and brothers.  Leaving them is something that isn’t at all romantic about our move.