Leaving Babyhood for the First Time

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Find artist Katie Baklinski here.

I can’t help but feel the ever shifting movement through time as we close the season of babyhood. She’ll always be my baby. But she’s not a baby anymore. With the start of preschool (Yes, in NYC, preschool starts at 2. Which apparently is a year younger than the rest of America.), the breaking down of the crib, the advent of toilet training – I am forced to relinquish the baby years. This makes me sappy and sad, which is particularly strange because it’s not like I was all that fond of the whole infancy thing.

My first year postpartum was overshadowed by sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, and a relentless yanking on my self-esteem – or rather lack thereof. We should be commemorating the breaking down of the crib with champagne bubbles and party streamers. Yet the paradox of parenthood triumphs, as always. So, we wipe the tears, move on with the tide of the day, because the new new will change again another day.

She took to school better than any parent could have ever asked for. (In fact she was quite upset the other day when it was time to go home.) I am left with a little more free time on my hands. As we enter the third year of Amata’s life, her needs have changed and she just doesn’t need me in the same way that she did last year, which was different yet than the year before that. I collect myself to adjust to the new needs. She certainly still thinks the world of me. But I’m not always the de facto favorite person to hang out with. I had to pick my jaw up from the floor yesterday when I went to pick her up from a friend’s house and she firmly planted her feet and said, “No mama. I stay here.”

Well okay then.

Who am I when my child needs me less? Who will I be when she goes to kindergarten? When she’s at middle school dances? High school football games? Am I who I want to be? Am I what I want her to see?

I’ve been scratching my head feeling futile with the whole “part time working mom” thing. I love what I do but gosh it feels like I have one foot in and one foot out. I hardly cover childcare, it’s not like I’m some bigwig CEO. Maybe it would be easier if I only had to focus on staying at home. That was my primary gig. Or maybe it’d be easier if I worked full time. Then I wouldn’t be answering phones while pushing a stroller and missing the bus and scrambling to find a pad of paper while my kid mews for “more raisins”.

Nah. I’m gonna keep going. I’m gonna keep on keeping on. It’s weird, right? The second our kids are born, they usurp every second of freedom and energy. And slowly, while not in a linear fashion, but in a gradual-eventual-trend-of-upwards fashion, they take less. Or maybe it’s the same, but it’s in a different way. It will be many years before my kid(s) are out of the house – but it will happen one day and I want to make sure I’ve taken the time to give to and nurture myself. Sure I’m a mom – but underneath the stained shirts and baggy eyes, I think there’s still a Cassie in there.

The tides – oh they are always changing. Parenthood is never stagnant. It’d be a shame if we got too comfortable.

 

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New York, A Tale of Love and Hassle


We’re coming up on our 3 year mark living in NYC. How did that happen? How in the heck have I not been chucked out of this place yet?

Living in New York City decidedly brainwashes you. Sure there’s amazing opportunity here, that skyline at dusk will always bring a pitter patter to your heart, and you won’t find another single place in America that boasts the variety New York has – but let’s be honest. You have to put up with a lot of bullshit. Literally sometimes – we’ve all seen poop in the subway. Even the most seasoned New Yorkers have a love-hate relationship with this place.

The sordid smell of garbage wafts through the air waiting to bombard you at the most unanticipated moment. People are rude – not because we’re assholes. There’s just too many freaking people and we can’t possibly be nice to every stranger. Especially when they’re in our way. When I leave the city, I physically feel my nervous system slacken. The energetic sphere of this island is always buzzing and whether or not you’re aware, you’re absorbing it. Whenever you are excited about an event, it’s likely the lines will be long, the view from your seat will suck, the temperature will be too hot or too cold, and it will cost you an arm and a leg. You can forget toppings on your hotdog. But we keep doing it! And we even convince ourselves that we like it! Because magical moments happen, and like a drug, we want more of them.

I hear from out of state relatives and friends, “I couldn’t do that, I don’t know how you do it!” And honestly, I don’t either. I guess I just do. It was never the plan to raise a family in New York City. It’s still not really the plan – I’m assuming we’ll get kicked out of this place sooner or later. I really thought it would happen long before now. But here we are.

Anyone who knows me even in passing – knows that I had a really rough transition to living here. You could say we had a rocky start. It’s gotten immeasurably better – but I’m still fantasizing about a slower paced life one day. I forget what it’s like to drive to Target to buy your home goods and park right away and not fight elbow to elbow with fellow customers and drive home right up to your doorstep.

When we first moved here, we had no friends, no jobs, and no apartment. We moved with a car full of stuff and a healthy dose of naivety. That’s ok. What else are you supposed to do as a 23 year old newlywed? Now we have a beautiful little girl, good jobs, a pretty nice apartment, and a whole community of support and friends. The thought of starting over somewhere is overwhelmingly daunting. But people do it, why would we be any exception? You know how the saying goes, if you can make it here….

But this place does stuff to you. In wonderful ways, in challenging ways, and even in dark ways sometimes. Some days, like when it takes over an hour to find a parking spot and I have a screaming toddler in the back and I’m carrying 17 bags 5 blocks to my apartment, because that was the closest parking spot I could find, from one simple trip to the pool, I ask myself “How much longer do you want to do this?”

I don’t know why I’m sharing this. I guess to say that yes, New York is wonderful and wild and exciting. And even though I’ve learned to handle many challenges with grace and we’ve come a loong way, it’s not a picnic. I used to think money solved all the problems. It helps, but it’s not a cure all. When we first moved here, I wanted so badly to get out. Three years later, I’m scared to leave and kind of scared to stay.

So when people ask me if we plan to stay here, I never know what to say. No? Maybe? It’s complicated? I’m grateful for the growth I’ve experienced during my time here. I’m even more grateful for the wonderful people my life has been opened up to. The memories and experiences and opportunities are irreplaceable. But I could get a much better quality of life somewhere else. And until then….I’ll just take advantage of the good things this concrete jungle offers. The crazy part is I will probably miss it one day.

 

The Motherhood Co-Op


May! May is here! And I’m finally feeling that late spring city vibe where the flowers are cheap and the vitamin D is ample. It’s a haul for me every year to get through January-April (which is ridiculous because that’s 1/3 of the year). But beach days and pool trips are just beyond the horizon and I think we can all collectively sigh about that.

A few months ago, I joined a mom’s group. Like a legit group with a (minimal) fee. I’m still mildly embarrassed about it but I’m telling the internet so obvs not that embarrassed. The woman who started the group had young children at the time and worked as a freelancer. It was originally a coworking space that had childcare. This got too complicated to sustain legally, so it ended up just being a group with the option to share a bulk of time at the coworking space and the option to do childcare swaps throughout the week. Her kids are older now, so she doesn’t need the childcare, but she organizes all the weekly activities, brunches, happy hours, and day trips. (Which tbh is worth the fee alone. Half the time I just want to be told where to show up in this city with a trillion options.)

Joining this group has become probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and my kid. Some call it a pre school co-op. Others call it a mom’s group. I’ve also heard it’s our village. But sometimes I think to myself, “This is just how it should be.”

Maybe it used to be this way with neighborhoods before the internet and what not. But I didn’t experience that with my daughter as a baby. So to have this group that meets weekly, sometimes even multiple times a week, where the kids grow to know each other and drop each other off at their houses for a day off feels so organic. Instead of paying absurdly high prices for toddler classes, we just get the kids together to play to interact and learn about human nature. No wait lists, no late fees, no clamoring to get the best seat. And it’s also nice to know there’s some structure behind it – someone is organizing and coordinating. Otherwise, we get pulled into our lives and forget to make the effort.

I recently heard someone say they would have no qualms about having kids if they lived in a commune. Rightly so. I’ve done the lonely motherhood thing. It’s hell. (Which came first the isolation or the Post-partum depression? You tell me.) So I find this group inspiring and exciting. We’re all just making it work. The city has a way of making people get creative to fulfill their needs.

So that’s what’s been filling our time these days. I am in a motherhood co-op. And it’s one of the best things to happen to me since moving to New York City. (Among many other things.)

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These Days


I hate spring. Allergies, pollen, rain, the tumultuous transitional weather – it’s not for me. So these days, I’m just getting through and trying to find the good in the every day.

We recently moved to a new apartment. It’s only a couple blocks from our old place, but it has 2 bedrooms and many conveniences (re: luxuries) that we didn’t have before. In unit laundry! A dishwasher! A backyard! (Even if it’s small and concrete that means a lot in this city.) It feels honestly a bit self indulgent. I can do laundry a step away from my bathroom. In my PJ’s! Still reveling in it, I suppose.

When we initially moved to New York, the first placed we signed on was in Brooklyn. It was a tiny tiny basement studio and our bed was no more than 4 feet from our kitchen. We didn’t have any closets and for all intents and purposes, the bedroom was the living room. We made it work and I still have some fond memories of that place. But I never thought we could come this far in 3 short years. It’s made me a little uncomfortable to be honest. Do I deserve this? I am only 26 years old – what makes me think I should have these sort of amenities?

Motherhood in New York is so vastly different than doing it anywhere else. There are some real advantages that give you an upper hand (it’s convenient to be able to walk to places), but there’s also some very unique struggles (not convenient to get on the subway with a toddler who does not want to be sitting still in a stroller or worn in a carrier. Geesh, mom.)

These days, we are well into the season of toddlerhood. We are constantly zipping from one activity to the next. While very different from last spring, we are still busy. Busy in a different way. I have simultaneously more and less free time than the itty bitty baby season.

Moving to a new apartment has given me lots of tactile projects to do. Reorganizing drawers and shelves and odds and ends. I’m starting to grow a small herb garden and also getting into cocktail making. (They obviously go hand in hand… 😉 ) I was going to give up social media for lent but I chickened out. I decided to focus more on being intentional with my time – no matter what I’m doing. Whether I’m doing a load of laundry, rearranging furniture, making dinner, or giving my daughter a bath. I’m making space for daily prayer and basically stopping to look around every once in a while.

Kyle once told me that life is divided into 3 major chapters. Learning, Producing, and Reflecting/Giving back. Obviously there’s some overlap – we never stop learning and we should always reflect on past decisions and moments. But these days, I’m definitively in the chapter of producing. And even though I’m completely exhausted by the end of the day, what better way to exhaust your energy than on rearing your little one(s)?

People keep telling me how fast it goes and how they miss “those days”. I often want to punch them in the throat for this trite cliche. But there is something I can take away from it. I’m up to my ears in spills and tears and stains and poop. (Poop? Yes, poop.) But it will pass. Like the itty bitty baby season – which I swore would last a lifetime.

I frequently feel like in my adult life that I missed the starting gun. No one told me when to run. I said the other night, “This is it. The starting gun happened. These are the memories, the moments, the cliches.” I remember on my wedding day, feeling like “Oh this is it? I feel so…ordinary. How can this be that day?”

Life feels ordinary 99% of the time. It seems to only feel extraordinary when I stop to think about it and drink in the exhaustion and hustle. So maybe that’s my goal for this lent season. My goal of ditching social media was really all about being more present and alive anyways – so maybe I should be focusing on that. I know, it’s not very original but it’s honest and that’s all I have to offer.

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In Recovery

I’ve had an explosive 3 years. I graduated college, got married, moved to New York City and had a baby in that short, short amount of time. Things have (relatively) calmed down, for the time being anyhow. But I still find myself in a major writer’s block. I barely blogged in 2016.

This wasn’t necessarily an intentional choice. Almost every day, I pull up a blank word document with that blinking cursor. She prods at me with her inquiries, “Well. What are you going to say?” she asks. After sitting there, dumbfounded for a few minutes, I reply, “Well, I guess nothing. Nothing for now.”

These days, it seems more important for me to observe rather than to declare. I have a lot of processing to do – all the while maintaining my commitments as a mother, wife, employee, and woman. Everyone in this city is striding at the speed of light from one errand to the next. Zipping on trains with their important briefcases and important phone calls and emails. I’ve come to realize that no one really takes you seriously in your 20’s – nor should they. Hell, I shouldn’t even take myself so seriously. (Notoriously cerebral Virgo over here.) I have so much to learn simply by taking in the trials and tribulations of early adulthood. I’ve been a recovering power-seeker for a while now. My recovery is going well, but I’ve got a long way to go.

I keep thinking about what I want to do with this blog. It’s not a lifestyle blog. I don’t proselytize about Catholicism anymore. I don’t even write about NFP all that much anymore. (Although I’m still fiercely passionate about it.) I seem to have far more questions than answers and frankly, I don’t really know if people want to read about questions. I feel like we want convictions and confidence and a 12-step-foolproof-blueprint to achieving the life of our dreams. No? Well that’s heartening.

Part of it was New York. Part of it was young marriage. The other part was early parenthood and a nightmarish postpartum experience. It was the perfect storm for a distorted ego to deflate – and fast. I have this bursting need to apologize. To who? I’m not sure.

So, I’ll continue to write. I’ll always continue to write. But I guess I’m not guaranteeing that I’ll say much. This isn’t the season for that.

10 Things About Being a Mom in NYC

When I see extended family members and friends they always ask how I am “doing it”. By that, they mean having a baby and living in New York City. Well, it might not be the most ideal thing in the world, but I have found many conveniences and advantages to being here with my babe. So here it is, the good, the bad and the ugly.


1. Babywearing. All the time, anywhere. We brunched one day for 5 hours going from place to place with friends while Amata stayed cozy cozy in her carrier. She napped when she was tired. She nursed when she was hungry. We didn’t have to get in a car once. (This was when she was younger and not nearly as mobile.)
2. The dollar. You want to do a sing along class? Great. That’ll be $165 for a 30 minute class. (Kidding! It’s only $50 for drop in, silly.) Things cost here. There’s a lot of fun activities to do, but you have to get creative if you’re trying to get around on a dime.
3. Activities! There are ways to get creative though. Sure, you don’t have a backyard with a kiddie pool, but you have story time at the Met! Water sprinklers in Central Park! The Botanic Gardens in Prospect Park! And did you know that there is a movie theatre in Williamsburg that hosts a weekly movie where you can bring your baby (under 1)? Okay, there’s some crying and fussing and you don’t get a whole lot of movie watching done but they will bring you snacks and cocktails. Also there are probably 37 meet ups on any given day within a mile range that would be up your alley. There really is anything and everything here.
4. Community. I’m sure there’s community no matter where you live, but there really is something special about being somewhere so physically close with your neighbors and people in the hood. I think with city living, you are more dependent on people. So we naturally appreciate the connections. When I was pregnant, the UPS guy delivered so many of our registry items. Our giant rocking chair. The car seat. The bassinet. Then we had the baby, and he was delivering diapers. He has watched this kid grow in person, sadly, more than some family members (because of circumstances, not by choice!). There is this connection where everyday items I use, I know who personally helped get it to our doorstep.
5. Community. On the flip side, all this close knitness has a downside. I know people are going to tell you how to parent no matter where you live. But because there’s an increased volume of people here, there’s an increased volume of unwarranted advice. I’ve had two separate people ask me on the same train ride, “Don’t you think she’s cold?” and then “Don’t you think she’s too warm?” When you’re riding 7 inches from a stranger on public transportation, there’s bound to be some conversation you didn’t ask for.
6. Convenience. After our home birth, we sent every piece of laundry out. Yes, even the sheets I gave birth on. Around 7 months of pregnancy I was fed up with carrying groceries so we started getting them delivered. We haven’t looked back. In the early days postpartum, we ordered casseroles like they were going out of style. The bodega down the street? They’ll deliver pretty much any hour of the day. I would do Target shopping at 2am while nursing my newborn. The modern day method of shopping is two thumbs up for this NYC mama. It was also easy and convenient to go out for just a cup of coffee in the middle of the day in those early weeks where I wasn’t ready to socialize, but just wanted to get out for 15 minutes. The coffee shop across from our building we call “downstairs”. Kyle will sometimes ask, “Do you want to go get a bagel downstairs?”
7. Aaand inconvenience. Like the stairs. Oh the stairs. I live in a walkup. Granted only the second floor. But yea, it’s an art to carry the stroller, the diaper bag, the picnic blanket, a lunchbox and a car seat down the stairs. Did I forget anything? Oh, right. The baby. Has that happened in real life? Yes. Sadly, yes. But I never have to go to the gym. So there’s a bright side.
8. R-E-S-P-E-C-T You have to hustle here. So if you’re hustling with a little one, you deserve mad respect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an elder man (usually hispanic) do a sign of the cross and say, “God bless you and the baby.” I don’t know why this is a thing, but it happens almost every time I’m out with the babe. I usually get a seat on the subway. And people generally are really happy to see a baby here.
9. Diversity. Kids grow up here seeing all different walks of life. All different religions, races, and economic brackets. I think that’s kind of cool.
10. Small living spaces. This is a pro and a con. We don’t have much storage space so we really have to think twice before buying that new amazing wing ding bing toy that takes up a fourth of our living room. But it’s cozy and I don’t have to worry about keeping my eye on her. She’s nearly always in my line of sight because that’s how my apartment is. She still sleeps in her crib in our room for the first half of the night and then eventually comes in the bed with us. I suppose now it just feels normal to sneak into our bedroom at 10pm. Sure, she’ll get her own room one day. But we’re making it work for now. Also, it’s pretty easy to clean all the floors and tidy things up in 30 minutes. Who needs more than one bathroom anyways? 😛

We don’t know how long we will stay in the city but we’re really having a fun time with it. Especially this time of year, there are so many exciting things to go and see and take advantage of. And little Amata can always say that she was born in a New York City apartment. That’s gotta give her bragging rights on the playground, no? 😉

The Blessing and Burden of Living Online

“We used to live on farms. Then we lived in cities. Now we live on the internet.”

The world wide web has done many a wonderful things for us. The internet can create relationships, cultivate ideas and movements, expand options for bringing in income, particularly with flexibility of space and time, construct global communication, and raise awareness for current events going on virtually anywhere on the planet. I’m not about to bash the internet, even though social media gets a really bad rap. I am after all, writing on a blog that lives online.

But with all of these advantages comes a hefty responsibility that reveals a weakness in the human spirit. I often wonder if the internet makes things our business that don’t belong to us. Knowing about tragedies going on around the world makes us feel knowledgeable and enlightened. We rush to our timelines to state our thoughts and opinions. I want to show solidarity. I want to show mourning. But do you ever feel like it is an empty vessel of exploitation? Do you ever feel like someone else’s living nightmare is merely your Facebook status?

I don’t want to belittle tragedy. Tragedy is, by definition, tragic. There are things happening every day in every corner of the world that merit grief. And because of the global weave the internet has knit, we hear about it much more frequently than generations before. To have this awareness is not all bad, but it’s not all good either.

We react impulsively to a sliver of information. Whether it’s about politics, an organization, a religion, or an event. We read a headline, misinterpret the bigger picture. Is this headline accurately portraying its ratio of significance? Sure this existed before the internet, but never in the capacity it is now.

I’m not a saint. I read the fodder. I have opinions. I don’t have answers. I do have lots of questions.

I have a daughter and a husband. I live in a small community, even though it’s in New York City. I often wonder what good it does to deliberate too much on bigger issues going on in my country and world. I do not work at the UN. I am not a representative for my community in the government. Sure I’m a voter, but even that only gets you so far. Maybe it’s more important I focus on my direct neighborhood and family? I don’t really know what this means. To be honest, it sounds catchy, but I don’t know where to start.

Maybe it means being present and involved in local issues, like the fact that the demand for schools K-5 is astronomically higher than the supply in the 1-2 mile radius in my little neighborhood. Or maybe it involves knowing the people in my building, being compassionate to them in small ways. We can’t fight everyone’s battles. I feel like I live online but forget to be intentional about my present physical space. Which is a shame, because I am in such a wonderful season of my life.

Many react to this by ridding themselves of being online all together. For me, this is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

It’s easy to give up the internet and delete your Facebook. It’s easy to ditch your smart phone. It’s hard to use your online space deliberately and honestly. It’s hard to stop yourself from scrolling like a zombie, and rather to make it a point to use the internet for its virtues, because it has many. I have loved blogging over the years and connecting with people through ideas and beliefs.

So I’m going to try to be more intentional throughout my day. I don’t really know how yet. I’m going to try to be more present in my physical life with the people I see day in and day out in my community. It’s cool to see how much we depend on others when you live in a city like New York. So much of my daily life depends on others showing up to their jobs, stocking their shelves, driving their truck. My own job often connects me with women in a vulnerable time in their life, either pregnant, trying to get pregnant or newly postpartum. As the brilliant and candid Thomas Merton said, no man is an island. In fact, the internet puts everyone on the same land.

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So. That’s what’s going on in my brain space today. What are your thoughts?

What I’ve Been Up To….

What I’m up to these days.

1. Kyle and I moved to a new apartment in Queens, both started new jobs and then went on vacation for a weekend. So it was a bit of a hectic two weeks. But we have 3 closets. Three!! So far I *love* our new neighborhood and I especially love that my job is a 10 minute walk from my house. No. Subway. Required. My new job is an office manager position at a wellness center that specializes in….you guessed it – fertility and reproductive health. I love that I get to be a part of this community in my area. Often times, the clients come in and this is the highlight of their week or month. It’s a local small business so I get to be a part of a very intimate, professional setting.

2. The bump.

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The bump is growing, my friends. I am at 17 weeks now and it no longer looks like a beer gut/too many cheeseburgers belly. I have my anatomy scan and find out the gender in 3 weeks and I can’t hardly wait!! The second trimester has been a lot easier than the first, but I wouldn’t say I’m *glowing*. No crazy cravings, but I do enjoy an increased amount of pickled veggies than pre-preggo. Kale may have forever lost its luster – I don’t know if I’ll ever look at it again and not feel queasy after the 1st trimester.

3. I’ve been helping out the lovely team behind the Sweetening the Pill Doc doing some graphic design and media stuff for their fundraising campaign. Have you seen it yet? We’re a quarter funded but we still have a long way to go! If this is a mission you feel passionately about, please consider donating or even just sharing the link!

4. Kyle and I celebrated our year anniversary this past weekend. One year of marriage. Crazy crazy.

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I never would have guessed I would be pregnant this soon. Or even that I would have *wanted* to be pregnant this soon. Our hearts do have a way of surprising us. 🙂

5. I discovered a chapel in Manhattan very close to us that has adoration 5 days a week from 9-5. It’s in the Upper East Side so it’s a relatively quiet chapel and I have found a lot of solitude and peace knowing I can go there to get away from the bustle when I need it. In many ways, pregnancy has changed the way I pray. I always liked Mary but now I’m all about meditations on her life as the blessed mother. It’s kind of mind blowing to me.

6. Now I’m sort of running out of things that I’ve been up to. Other than various home (apartment) improvement projects. Which include rigging our sink to hook up a countertop dishwasher, making our (3!) closets usable, and trying to find the time to buy a dresser so our clothes aren’t in piles on the floor for forever. (I promise there’s room for a crib once the clothes and boxes get put away!)

7. Lastly, I’ve been exploring all the great things about my new neighborhood. I’ve found my favorite coffee spot, a new bakery, figured out the laundry system in my building, and look forward to lots of biking to the waterfront park where we get this view:

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