You know you’re on vacation with 7 boys when….

Last week, our family was invited to spend nine glorious days at our friends’ house on Long Beach Island. LBI is the ultimate Jersey shore experience: beautiful beaches, the old-fashioned Fantasy Island amusement park, plenty of lobster shacks, and enough salt water taffy and fudge to put you into a diabetic stupor.

All boys vacation LBI on carpoolcandy.com

The main crew

Our friends, Tony and Carmela*, have three boys, plus our three boys, and half the week we added a friend, to make 7.  That’s SEVEN BOYS, between the ages of 8 and 15.

Throw in two husbands and that’s a lotta testosterone.

When you have that many boys gaggled together, it attracts other boys, like a flashmob. We spent time with a couple of other families whose boys were eager to join our pack, ballooning our numbers up to 9 or 10 boys at a time.

beach football in LBI on carpoolcandy.com

Not great odds for the ladies to have influence. So what happens when you’re traveling with that many boys? Let’s just say it’s difficult to motivate them to do anything quickly. Getting them up and out for any activity other than Xbox or mini golf is like herding cats, or trying to move sandbags off a couch.

There were too many of them. Their group power and loud voices were often too strong to fight. So Carmela and I did what mothers of boys do: kept them fed and aimed for only one activity per day. We survived, but it was certainly a unique experience as you can see below.

You know you’re on vacation with 7 boys when….

All boys vacation LBI on carpoolcandy.com

….the surface of every bedroom floor is covered in Under Armour and Nike Elite socks.

boys vacation LBI on carpoolcandy.com

…..you need a group rate at Mr. Tee’s and the only morning they rise before 10am is mini-golf tournament day.

swimming on LBI on carpoolcandy.com

…..they insist on swimming in the ocean after the lifeguards have blown their last whistle, despite the crazy current and worried look on Carmela’s face.

swimming on LBI on carpoolcandy.com

swimming on LBI on carpoolcandy.com

…..ESPN is on 24/7 and double speak on fantasy football trades is flying.

boys vacation on LBI on carpoolcandy.com

……more than half your party leaves a gorgeous beach day to watch the Mets defend a 7-game winning streak.

water park boys vacation on LBI on carpoolcandy.com

…..no one wants to stop at any of the scores of t-shirt shops and craft stores you pass as you run to the water park for the second time in 5 days.

……the boys drink nearly two cases of Gatorade in a week

…..you drink 10 bottles of wine, and almost finish bottles of vodka and gin in a week. (Remember: SEVEN BOYS!)

water park boys vacation on LBI on carpoolcandy.com

…… you rent 3 paddle boards for two hours and the boys immediately take off into the bay without life jackets, a map or a plan for return.

boys vacation LBI on carpoolcandy.com

Serious game of beach Boggle

…..the interest in any activity is heightened by competition, be it football, cards, Boggle, or who gets the outdoor shower first.

…..no one goes to bed before 1130pm, purely out of pride, even if they’re falling asleep in their clothes while thumbing a game controller.

late night snack at Chicken and the Egg LBI on carpoolcandy.com

……one of the highlights of the trip is playing football on the beach at midnight and then ordering more chicken wings than will ever be eaten at Chicken and the Egg diner at 1245am.

boys vacation LBI on carpoolcandy.com

…..you take about 200 photos and not one has all boys smiling or looking at the camera at the same time.

boys vacation LBI on carpoolcandy.com

Never figured out what this gross spongy thing was….

….they squeal in horror if you dare put red sauce on their pasta or spill ice cream on their favorite shirt…. but they have no problem wiping greasy, sticky hands on their shorts in lieu of a napkin… or carrying some disgusting piece of black, slimy moss crawling with bugs and crabs across a beach.

boys vacation LBI on carpoolcandy.com

……you can be jammed into a narrow house, switch sleeping arrangements every night, and basically spend every minute together for nine days without any hair pulling, crying, or drama.

boys vacation LBI on carpoolcandy.com

Truth is, I’d do it again, quicker than they can deny dripping pee on the toilet seat. I love me some boys.

Special shoutout and thanks to Tony and Carmela for their hospitality. Hope your summer vaca was equally fun!

 

*names changed in hopes we’ll get invited back!

Our brilliant trip to London (in photos)

I’m back from a week across the pond and already missing London. When Jacob was 12 I took him to Paris with a friend and her son, so I promised Aden and Eli I would take them somewhere special when they turned 12 and this year was Aden’s turn.

I had not been to London since a family trip when I was 8 and was eager to see it as an adult. My friend, Raquel, has been living in London as an ex-pat for four years with her husband and 9-year-old son. She was gracious enough to invite us to stay with her in her North London apartment for a week. My friend, MaryEllen, and her son, Pat– Aden’s pal-  joined Aden and me on our English adventure.

London with kids on carpoolcandy.com

At the Tate Museum looking at St Paul’s Cathedral

I’m a researcher so I bought a guidebook and map and was online for hours in the weeks leading up to the trip, trying to plan the best itinerary and find great places to eat near all the sights we wanted to see. But like the saying “man plans and God laughs,” I planned and the kids laughed. I quickly learned it was better to keep expectations low and go with the flow or I would end up very frustrated.

We chose a daytime flight because we figured the boys would be too excited to sleep on the plane and then the first day in London would be spent sleeping (that’s what happened when we flew overnight to Paris) so we arrived in the evening.

Flying to London on carpoolcandy.com

The boys were great travelers and with the help of iPads, a well-stocked snack bag,  and a deck of cards, they managed the 12 hour journey with little complaint.

The first day we were all a bit groggy and got a late start. I tried not to be impatient despite my eagerness to seize the day in a new city. Rushing 12-year-old boys to go see historical sights in a foreign land is not advisable. Better they move at their own pace and eat a hearty breakfast.

Big Ben London on carpoolcandy.com

Our first day was rainy so we decided to go to the Churchill War Rooms and Museum. We took the Underground to Westminster and as soon as we stepped out, we were in awe of Big Ben.

It was starting to feel real for the boys, who even agreed to dodge raindrops to pose for several pictures.

London phone booth on carpoolcandy.com

(We had to)

Big Ben London on carpoolcandy.com

We hit several tourist sights the first day and were impressed with the boys’ stamina.

Having an apartment to return to every evening was a huge bonus.

North London apartment on carpoolcandy.com

Raquel and Jonas (and MaryEllen) on the balcony of their London flat

We had space to move, there were several bathrooms, and we had friendly faces eager to hear about our adventures and help plan our next destinations.

London with kids on carpoolcandy.com

Hanging with Jonas

One of the best parts of the trip was watching Aden soak in a new culture. We took several rides on the top of the famous red double-decker buses, where he always wanted to sit in the front seat to check out the city. His eyes were wide open and his curiosity buzzing as he commented on the architecture, cars, and people.

London bus on carpoolcandy.com

Riding a red double decker bus

Wilson has indulged me twice, supporting these one-on-one trips and I am grateful. As I explained to him, most of our family life is spent playing, watching, and talking about sports. I live in a virtual ESPN Zone.

I didn’t grow up in a house with sports fans and rarely watched a game on TV. I have a mild interest in sports from a pop culture perspective and I love watching my boys play. But it’s not my thing, and they know it. So they don’t strike up conversations about college football stats in the car or call me in the middle of the day to discuss a Mets trade. Only Wilson makes those daily connections.

So I wanted to do something with each of my boys that took them completely out of their scene, and exposed them to a new environment that would open their minds about their place in the world. These trips allow us to share new experiences– learning about history, seeing amazing sights and eating different  food– while building memories that hopefully they’ll look back on warmly.

One day on the trip we were on the Overground and missed our stop. The boys correctly said we needed to get off at the next stop, but MaryEllen and I doubted them and looked up at the map to see which stop we missed, and in the confusion the doors closed and the boys were standing on the platform outside, and we were locked inside the Tube!

London with kids on carpoolcandy.com

The boys on the Overground right after surviving 10 minutes alone on a London platform

Luckily we had already discussed what to do if this ever happened and they knew to stay put until we returned. But that didn’t stop MaryEllen and I from screaming “STAY THERE!” ten times as the train pulled away. There were 3 or 4 people in the car staring at us– the irresponsible, loud, stupid Americans–  aghast… as we burst into giggles. Parenting skills at their finest, we left our children at a tube stop in a foreign country.

We got back to the boys within 10 minutes and they were also laughing hysterically and didn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the trip. It was absolutely one of the best things that ever happened to them.

Abbey Road Studios in London on carpoolcandy.com

Abbey Road Studios in North London

Raquel happens to live across the street from the famous Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles made magic. All day and night tourists come to graffiti the walls outside the building and take photos on the iconic cross walk, like the cover of the Abbey Road album.

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One night, in the cover of darkness, we went down to the studio in our pajamas  and spray painted our names on the wall.

Graffiti on Abbey Road studios wall on carpoolcandy.com

It felt naughty and thrilling all at once.

Graffiti on Abbey Road studios wall on carpoolcandy.com

We also got incredibly fortunate when we got bumped up to business class on the flight home. It was the most luxurious 7.5 hours of Aden’s life, as he stretched out on a cozy bed, watching movies and ordering snacks from an eager flight attendant.

FLying business class with kids on carpoolcandy.com

We did a lot of amazing things in London– as you will read in my next post– but it’s the funny and unexpected adventures that they’ll remember, more than the Crown Jewels or Picassos at the Tate Modern.

I’m cool with that.

Huge thanks to Raquel, Chris, and Jonas for being terrific hosts and enhancing our trip! Stay tuned for the next post about all the fun things we did and many more pix.

Kanye West: creative genius or out of control egomaniac?

Sorry for the hiatus kids, I was in jolly old England for a week with Aden (at least one post on that loveliness to come.) While I was gone, my review came out on the new book, “Kanye West: God and Monster,” by Mark Beaumont.

While the book is not great– way too long and not well-written or edited– I was fascinated by Kanye and wanted to learn more. He’s surprising in many ways. Growing up with two college-educated parents who valued the arts and instilled a strong work ethic, he started rapping as a kid in Chicago and worked his ass off writing and performing whenever he could.

kanye west god and monster book cover on carpoolcandy.com

He made his bones as a producer and was working in the big leagues by 19– showing up to meetings with record companies in a pink Polo shirt and a Louis Vuitton backpack– ready to negotiate. The 90’s hip hop world didn’t know what to make of him, but he refused to take no for an answer.

Once he broke into the music business, he worked obsessively on perfecting every record, surrounding himself with the best talent and open to all collaboration. As his star began to rise, his healthy ego became his downfall. His media meltdowns became legendary and made him a punchline.

But he just went back to work creating. His vision and influence extends well beyond music into producing and directing videos, fashion, and design. Kanye also changed the genre by writing more honestly about his life experiences and feelings, which opened the door for many new artists since. The book made me want to buy his albums.

While I wouldn’t recommend Kanye West: God and Monster— read why below, I don’t mince words– I hope a good writer gets access to Ye or he writes his own story. I’d buy that book for realz.

Anyone who’s glanced at a tabloid recently knows Kanye West as a flashy rapper married to reality TV star Kim Kardashian. But a new book, “Kanye West: God and Monster,” by Mark Beaumont (Ominibus Press) argues West’s talent and influence stretch well past the gossip headlines. 

Beaumont did his homework — there are eight pages of sources cited in the index– piecing together West’s story, using media interviews spanning more than a decade. But the only quotes in the book allegedly said by West and those in his circle are taken from outside reporting– not original interviews– so there are no revelations, and few new personal details. 
 
The book follows West’s life from childhood in Chicago, to his first shot in the music business, through to the present. The bulk of the content focuses on West’s creative process writing and producing, so it reads more like a music anthology than biography. 
 
The chapters are long and dense, each focusing on a particular album, explaining the origin and meaning of scores of song lyrics and musical hooks, and myriad collaborators. West has joined forces with dozens of rap and hip hop stars and the author names them all, making it challenging to keep up. While Beaumont is deft at analyzing West’s lyrics and relating them to the rapper’s life experiences, including so many examples becomes repetitive, tedious, and breaks the narrative’s flow. 
 
A consistent theme in the book is West’s perseverance and his refusal to accept rejection because his artistic convictions and belief in himself are so strong. Beaumont suggests that while West is a “god” in music now, he had a tough time breaking in.
 
He didn’t look or sound like other rappers in the late 1990’s, and came from a disciplined home with college-educated parents who valued academics, art and a strong work ethic. While most rappers were wearing tight shirts and baggy jeans slung low, West– a high-fashion fan– sported a loose pink Ralph Lauren shirt with the collar flipped up and a Louis Vuitton backpack.

kanye-west Rolling Stones cover
Beaumont builds a convincing case that West is a creative music genius, with an eye for fashion, video directing, and design. He’s also known among peers as one of the hardest working in show business. Rapping as a child, he hustled through adolescence and produced on a platinum record at just 19.   
 
The book examines his process– never writing down lyrics, constantly listening to music from all genres to find hooks, and putting them together with signature beats. West often burrows in hotels and makeshift studios for months with little sleep, barely stopping to eat, as he constantly rearranges songs up until a record release.

A near fatal car accident at the beginning of his career gave him renewed purpose and sparked more honesty in his writing. While most artists were singing about fast cars, guns and sex, West started writing reflective raps about peer pressure, materialism, racism, violence, and stereotypes.

The audience responded to his new vulnerability: he was selling records and wowing critics. Beaumont maintains this introspective writing style changed the game and opened the door for more sensitive artists like Drake, Kid Cudi, and Frank Ocean. 

But with success, came hubris and a lack of self-control. West began to draw negative attention by comparing himself to great musicians and cultural icons, like Michael Jackson, the Beatles, Steve Jobs, and Ghandi, and became famous for his public meltdowns. 
 
He was publicly vilified after effectively calling then President George Bush a racist on live TV, and again when interrupting Taylor Swift after winning her first MTV award insisting Beyonce should have won. The backlash sent him into exile, but the book doesn’t offer any new insight nor explain why West continued his monster ways in subsequent interviews, Twitter rants, and scuffles with paparazzi. 

Fans looking for scoop on West’s personal life will be disappointed. Many life events– messy breakups, his mother’s tragic death following plastic surgery, feuds with other musicians, his marriage to Kardashian and becoming a father — are glossed over. 
 
The book spotlights the music and West’s ambition and artistic influence. He has his own record label, produces and styles music videos, created a Nike sneaker, and has fashion lines in the works. His tour with hip hop magnate Jay-Z broke records and marked transcendence into the mainstream.
 
“They were outselling Rock and Roll giants, and had broken through cultural barriers to become accepted and loved far beyond their niche beginnings. They were pop culture figures dictating fashion, music and even changes in racial and social attitudes,” Beaumont writes.  
 
Beaumont’s writing style is bland, unlike his dynamic subject. West’s personal story, his fearlessness and tireless work ethic, and his talent and creativity will likely inspire readers. Beaumont hails West as innovative and riveting. Unfortunately, his book is not.

Are you a Kanye fan? Tell me in the comments.
 

So long Jon Stewart, it’s been real

The host of The Daily Show has written us all a “Dear Jon” letter. I’d like to send it back but I don’t think it would do any good. There’s not much to say except I’ll miss Jon Stewart dearly.

the daily show with jon stewart logo on carpoolcandy.com

That short little bucket of brains made me see things more clearly, while keeping me laughing for 16 years. I’m a journalist who has written and produced news stories for a very long time (saying the number of years just makes me feel old)  but Jon Stewart often helped me digest and understand the news in a way traditional news outlets could not.

He and his amazing writing staff were able to boil down the facts and make sense of them, often when world events made no sense at all.

He got us through 9/11 and the Newtown school shooting. He made us laugh at Bush 43’s awkward snicker and reminded us relentlessly that Dick Cheney– whom he pegged as the Darth Vader of the Iraq War — shot his friend in the face.

He hammered at ObamaCare, even challenging HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to log on to the glitch-plagued website on a laptop during her interview. He had a way of nailing lots of politicians who dared to sit in his hot seat, while showing the utmost respect… and winking at us, his loyal audience.

daily show jon stewart ticket on carpoolcandy.com

My ticket to see The Daily Show last year. (sigh) The last time we would be together.

Not just a comedian and host, he was an agent of change. Many hold him largely responsible for drawing attention to Congress failing to pass a bill to help veterans and 9/11 first responders get health care. After TDS devoted several segments to the debacle, a bill got passed.

I’m sure Trevor Noah is a talented, smart guy. I trust the people at Comedy Central know what they’re doing, and I’m certain Stewart wouldn’t allow that desk to be sullied by someone who couldn’t handle it.

daily show jon stewart studio on carpoolcandy.com

Here I am on the set of the show, eagerly awaiting Jon, who was funny and easy with the audience. This set will be donated to the Newseum for posterity.

But I’m going to miss tuning into TDS and seeing Jon and his team giving us their unique take on current events, and asking the intelligent and less obvious questions of celebrities and newsmakers. He created a cultural phenomenon that has hugely influenced comedy and politics forever.

One of Wilson’s big complaints about me is that I hoard TV shows on the DVR, often leaving no room to record essential Michigan football games or historical documentaries. Right now, I have no less than 60 TDS episodes stacked up. I’ve tried to weed through and delete but I’m too worried I’ll miss something (there’s that FOMO again!)

His bits are funny even months later and you get a lot of bang for your buck: he makes me laugh and I always learn something.

Now I’ll treasure these old episodes and parse them out slowly, so I don’t have to rip the band-aid off tonight, when he appears for the last time.

Stewart’s final episode will be star-studded, nostalgic, and undoubtedly very funny. And I hear Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are playing, so that could soften the blow.

I’m going to miss you Jon. Hope this break gives you the moment of Zen you deserve.

 

U2 at MSG or How Bono and FOMO don’t mix

Monday, I decided to get last-minute tickets to see U2 at Madison Square Garden. They’re my favorite rock band (unless Bruce and the E Street Band count) and I’ve seen them live many times. I wanted to get tickets when they went on sale months ago– and even put an alarm in my phone– but on that day some domestic distraction prevented me from getting on the phone or computer at the right time and by the time I did, decent seats were sold out.

I was disappointed and mad at myself so I did what I often do (and wish I didn’t) I avoided the problem until too late, because it was too painful to deal.

U2 2015 tour poster

Then our own personal Ticketmaster– Wilson’s brother, Jon– got four free tickets in a box for a Saturday night two weeks ago. I was thrilled.

Until I realized it conflicted with my BlogHer plans. I couldn’t ditch my out-of- town guest and all the fun of BlogHerpalooza so I gave my ticket up and Wilson went with his cousin.

But you may remember that a few weeks ago, my sister-in-law got tickets an hour before the Taylor Swift concert, and got great seats. So I decided I would be fun and spontaneous and try to score tickets the day of the concert. I was already in the city for work and had to pass MSG to get to Penn Station for my train home so it seemed like a low-risk, high-excitment endeavor.

I solicited my friend, Karen, to go and she enthusiastically returned my text: “OMG that would be so much fun!” she replied encouragingly.

Buoyed by Karen’s whimsy and dreams of getting a wink from the Edge from my last-minute floor seat, I checked StubHub for tickets. The cheapest seats started at $180 and they were behind the stage. Not good.

Wilson told me the show featured a giant screen that ran the length of the venue so if we were behind the stage we would miss all the action and visuals. Although it was a Monday night and they were playing like 8 shows in NYC, there were barely any seats available and they ranged from $350-850. Each! 

I was feeling impulsive and crazy, but not that crazy.

I downloaded the StubHub app to my phone and began obsessively checking for seats. I went to the StubHub office in midtown, hoping I could charm someone there into state secrets on how to get last-minute seats that didn’t cost as much as a pair of Bono’s custom sunglasses.

MSG seating grid on carpoolcandy.com

I looked at the MSG seating chart about 100x in 12 hours.

It’s really kind of insane how much you have to fork over to see live music these days. Like cuckoo.

But I digress.

So Karen and I show up at MSG and stand in a line for people without tickets hoping to get last-minute releases. We knew that line of at least 20 people was not bearing fruit, but that line is how scalpers know you are in need.

We surveyed the situation and were approached by at least three scalpers. The first had only three teeth and very dirty shoes– no joke– and seemed pissed off. We didn’t engage him.

Another seemed sketchy and only talked out of the side of his mouth, while darting his eyes around, probably scanning for cops, who were lingering close by. We weren’t sure if we could get arrested for buying tickets from a scalper or if only the scalpers were at risk.

Did I mention Karen is a lawyer and very practical? Between that and my fear of making a bad choice that would put us out up to $500, we were not terrific scalper customers.

But we found one guy– let’s call him Joe Tickets, cuz that’s the name he gave me when I got his cell phone later– whom I trusted. He looked me in the eye, he was funny and he seemed to have a more honest face than the others. He said he would give us a ticket for one of us to go inside and find the seats to ensure they were legit. Then the other person would give him the cash for both tickets and get the other ticket. Seemed foolproof.

U2 MSG 2015

He had two tickets in a decent section for $250 each. $50 more than we wanted to pay, but it was now 8:10pm and the show was starting in 10 minutes so we began to feel desperate.

But that desperate feeling also made us doubt ourselves. We saw a couple buy the tickets from Joe and the husband disappeared while the wife waited outside for the call. She eventually wandered away so Joe’s tickets seemed to be the real thing (just like the U2 song.)

We hesitated….and just like that… the tickets were gone.  Joe whispered into several other dudes’ ears, but all the seats were taken and the music had already started.

So much for spontaneity.

disappointed fans on carpoolcandy.com

We walked into Penn Station (no place to lick your wounds) in a daze. We kind of couldn’t believe we really weren’t seeing U2. This isn’t how we pictured the story ending.

I attribute much of my initial excitement and subsequent disappointment to my acute case of FOMO (fear of missing out.) I get an idea in my head that I want to do something– it can be a pop culture event like this, or a party, or even a family activity– and I start to get anxious if I have a conflict and can’t make it happen.

I missed the “last” Grateful Dead shows in my home town a few weeks ago….U2 for BlogHer…I went to Taylor Swift and didn’t get to see The Wailers playing at Maplewoodstock….Wilson had only 4 tickets to the Met game and didn’t have enough tickets for me.

First world problems, I know. Woe is lucky me. But I can get my panties in a twist over missing stuff, and I cant figure out why. It happens with events, but also TV shows, movies, vacation spots. What personality defect does this reflect?

You know what doesn’t help my FOMO issues? Fucking Facebook.

FOMO graphic

As Karen and I sheepishly boarded our train home, we chatted a bit before checking our phones. I went onto Facebook to retrieve a message. As I scrolled through, I saw at least three friends posting photos from inside the show I was missing at that exact moment.

Photos, videos, and excited bursts of concert joy rattled and hummed on my feed. I hated them all.

We still hadn’t found what we’re looking for.

By the next day, the feelings of disappointment and regret had subsided and I realized that, of course, there will be other concerts. Karen and I had fun and impromptu dinner and drinks that never would have happened.

That’s the lesson I’m still striving to learn. To be present and satisfied with the moment I’m in. Cuz most of them are pretty great.

What gives you FOMO? Tell me in the comments.

#BlogHer15: Connecting on many levels

You may wonder why we bloggers do what we do. Why do we toil in the wee hours of morning and night to match just the right photo to carefully chosen words? Why do we share some of our most intimate and/or humiliating moments? Why put ourselves out there to be judged, or worse, ignored?

BlogHer15 NYC highlights on carpoolcandy.com

Chew, Smiles, and Candy taking time to smell the roses.

I spent last weekend attending BlogHer15— the world’s largest conference for women content creators on social media — and was reminded why we blog.

Only a few of the thousands of bloggers in attendance have hit it big. Winning the blogging lottery can mean different things: building a brand, monetizing with ads, scoring a book deal… but all any of us really want is to be heard.

We want more people to read and engage in our passion subjects.

That’s my takeaway from an amazing weekend of listening to inspiring speakers, meeting real and virtual friends, and taking notes at professional breakout sessions.

The blog is not the thing. Connecting is the thing.

This was my third time at BlogHer and it certainly was the charm. Year one in NYC, I was a clueless rookie, obsessively consulting my session schedule and terrified of missing any events, speakers, or blogging advice. I was all business and just a little fun and I knew like two gals.

Year 2 was in Chicago. I went alone and tried to soak in the experience, but found it difficult to meet people (I’m more shy than you’d think in enormous crowds) and spent evenings with high school friends instead of bloggers.

BlogHer15 NYC highlights on carpoolcandy.com

We got lots of free stuff at the Expo this year. Here we are trying new Coke Life with Stevia. (I liked it!)

But this year, I had a writer posse and it made all the difference. I convinced my virtual friend Christine of the popular and perfectly seasoned food blog ChewNibbleNosh.com to hop on a plane from Indianapolis to be my partner in crime for the weekend.

BlogHer15 NYC highlights on carpoolcandy.com

Much deserved late night snacks at Eataly with the gals

I also strongly encouraged my local friend Jesse, who writes beautifully about family life with a special child at SmilesandDuctTape.com to take the plunge at her first blogging conference. At BlogHer13 in Chicago, I made only two new friends: the always honest and funny Amy of AMyNameisAmy.com–who writes about parenting, divorce, pop culture and being a bossassbitch— and Emily who makes food and her kids sound equally delicious on Em-i-Lis.com. Both those ladies were back for more in NYC this year, and Amy’s hotel roommate, Stacey, who’s OneFunnyMotha was kind enough to put up with us too.

Whether newbies or veterans, we were all a bit wary, wondering what the energy of the conference would be like, and whether it was worth the hassle it requires to leave your family, jobs, and responsibilities back home for several days.

BlogHer15 NYC highlights on carpoolcandy.com

Blogger friends for life bonding at dinner

But over several glasses of wine at dinner Saturday night, we agreed it was the best decision we’d made in a long while.

It’s intimidating to walk into an enormous ballroom and find a place at the table– as it were. I’ve found that no matter how many page views you have, everyone wonders if they belong.

BlogHer15 NYC on carpoolcandy.com

But the nurturing environment helped us get comfortable and when we weren’t focused on speakers or mechanics, we laughed a lot. It’s funny how close you can get to people in such a short time when you share this kind of intense experience.

Soledad OBrien at BlogHer15 NYC highlights on carpoolcandy.com

Journalist Soledad O’Brien kicked off the event, talking about her Starfish Foundation, which chooses dozens of girls (who could not otherwise afford college) to financially, emotionally and professionally support through school and career building.

We were inspired to act, to dream, to push ourselves and those around us.

BlogHer15 NYC highlights on carpoolcandy.com

I got to meet one of my favorite bloggers and the ultimate success story, Jen Mann of PeopleIWanttoPunchintheThroat.com

There’s something kind of magical about being in a safe space with creative women peers. And with some, you know their online voices so there’s an immediate familiarity.

Gwyneth Paltrow at BlogHer15 NYC highlights on carpoolcandy.com

So safe in fact, that the embattled Gwyneth Paltrow could wow the crowd during her lunchtime talk. Looking tan and svelte and appropriately fashionable, the actress and goop.com founder talked about everything from building a brand to raising kids in the midst of a high-profile divorce.

Paltrow has been under fire for several comments in the media that made her sound entitled and out of touch with regular folk. She addressed her bad press in an evolved, thoughtful way and came across as relaxed,, intelligent and even funny– quieting many of the haters in the crowd.

BlogHer15 NYC highlights on carpoolcandy.com

“If I read something that stings it’s usually because I’ve held that judgment against myself. So I unpack that and work through it,” she told the attentive audience.

BlogHer15 NYC highlights on carpoolcandy.com

I went to a few amazing breakout sessions to learn more tricks of the trade. I took notes like I was back in college about humor writing, building a brand on social media, and time management. Each session provided at least one nugget of wisdom or spark.

Here are a few I gathered:

–“We women are so hard on ourselves. Make realistic goals. Don’t should all over yourself,” Danielle Faust on time management

–“Ideas aren’t unique, your voice is,”  Sarah Maizes on humor writing.

–“Readers don’t want to know the most recent thing you said, they want to know the best thing you said,”–Jessica Woodbury on best SEO practices and setting up a blog home page.

BlogHer15 NYC highlights on carpoolcandy.com

Breakout session on SEO

The last two speakers on Saturday evening had great impact on the thousands of attendees. First up was media executive and motivational speaker Tenishia Jackson-Warner who encouraged us to stretch ourselves. “Don’t just follow your dreams, chase them!” she told the eager crowd. Get out of your comfort zone, do things that scare you, be persistent, defy rejection, and don’t give up. Her words made my heart leap into my throat and lingered in my head for days.

I have one particular project I’ve been avoiding out of fear so here words hit a nerve.

Ava DuVernay at BlogHer15 NYC highlights on carpoolcandy.com

Duvernay’s eloquence and confidence were infectious.

“Selma” director Ava Duvernay had us on the edge our seats as she spoke about diversity in filmmaking and empowering women in all fields.

“Women have been trained to ask for what we want instead of taking it. We’ve been indoctrinated in a culture of permission. It’s true for women and it’s true for people of color. But that time has passed,” she said about defining this moment in time with boldness.

The weekend was about connecting–to each other, to our industry, to the larger world– and going after what we want.

You don’t have to be a blogger to appreciate that.

Help me connect with more readers by sharing posts you like and signing up to receive my blog via email. Just scroll to the top of the page and click on “Follow” on the right side. See, now you’re stretching too! Thanks!

 

 

Those days you wish for a parenting do-over

The last few weeks have been very busy in my part of the world. All three boys are playing travel baseball and going to various camps so it’s been hard to keep any kind of schedule. I constantly feel like I’m behind, forgetting something or someone, and generally exhausted.

So read on with a little sympathy and understanding if you would, please, cuz it ain’t pretty.

Not a bad mom graphic

After a weekend of baseball, entertaining family, and attending our town’s two-day jam fest– Maplewoodstock– and the Taylor Swift concert, I wasn’t exactly on my game to prepare for the week. On Monday, I left early and had plans to meet friends after work, before accompanying Wilson to a work dinner in Manhattan.

It wasn’t until we were on the train home at 11pm when I realized Eli had a camp overnight the following night. I had not signed the permission slip or packed for him. Thank goodness for email, I was able to get the slip and the packing list at that late hour.

As I ran around Tuesday morning trying to find a flashlight and make breakfast for my other boys, Eli disappeared. I was just putting $10 in a ziploc bag for him to buy treats at the water park when Aden started screaming from upstairs…

Aden: “MOM! Eli just stole $20 from your drawer!”

Eli: “No I didn’t!!” (angry)

This exact exchange happens three more times, and Eli’s indignance escalates each time he denies taking the cash.

Me: (still patient) “Did you take money from my drawer?”

Eli: (on verge of tears) “I didn’t!!!”

Me: “Ok, then you won’t have a problem with me checking your pockets.”

He stands there with a look I’ve seen too many times before. You may recall that Eli has history of stealing and lying about it. We’ve had several discussions– within the last month– about respecting the belongings of others and telling the truth.

Childhood phase or gateway to life of crime?

Childhood phase or gateway to life of crime?

I found the $20 in his pocket and flew into a rage. I don’t love that he took it– and now I’m worried he’s been using that drawer as his personal bank for god knows how long.

But staring me straight in the face and denying it sent me over the edge. I yelled at him (a lot) until he cried, and then the camp bus pulled up.  I gave him a lame hug and sent him off for 36 hours, with my harsh words stinging in his ears and the pain of guilt weighing heavily on my heart.

In a moment of insanity, I signed Aden up for a 5 week writing class this summer. I feel strongly that my boys should have interests outside of sports, and Aden has a lot of unstructured time so we agreed he would take a class on writing about books. I put the class time in my phone on Wednesdays, instead of Tuesdays, so we missed the first class.

Mom Fail.

My apologetic email to the teacher was returned with an assignment to buy a book and assure Aden reads 150 pages of it before the next class. I reminded him several times during the week to read and as he ignored me I silently cursed myself for thinking the class was a good idea.

I already mentioned our insanely busy weekend so on Sunday night I realized he had not read one page of said book. I told him when he got home from camp Monday there would be no TV or video games until he read a lot of that book.  As we were out Monday night, I had my sitter remind him to read the book. On Tuesday morning I asked Aden if he read any of it and he triumphantly told me he read all 150 pages!

I was thrilled. Until we realized he read 150 pages of the wrong book! He “didn’t remember” me telling him which book to read, and it didn’t occur to me to be specific with my sitter.

Epic Mom fail.

And on top of that,  I was rushing to get him out of basketball camp early to get him to another town for this class and I forgot to bring him a journal he needed for the class too.

Feeling better about your parenting skills now, aren’t you?

Despite the knots in my stomach as I offered lame excuses to the teacher, it all worked out and he actually enjoyed the class, even without having read a single page. To reward him for his positive attitude, I took him for a frappucino at Starbucks. A little redemption.

But alas, our detour made us late getting home and we had to rush to get him dressed for his baseball game that night. Then he couldn’t find his game jersey. Anywhere.

Little League baseball on carpoolcandy.com

The jersey in question

We turned the house upside down and as the minutes ticked away…. he was 10, then 20, then 25 minutes late for warm ups. He started yelling at me and refused to answer every time I asked him to retrace his steps on the last time he wore it. I started to get angry (again) and we argued until he finally found it in the bottom of the car trunk. Grrrr.

As I dropped him a full 30 minutes late for warm ups, he slammed the door of the car and didn’t even look at me.

Another banner day of parenting.

Every time I thought of Eli at camp I felt sad, and I couldn’t shake my bad behavior with Aden for the rest of the night. If I had been less tired, more patient, more organized, more focused, I could have handled each situation better, with a less unpleasant outcome.

So far, my boys seem to be forgiving (or perhaps just completely indifferent) when I have a bad parenting day.  But I’ve realized in my 15+ years of this mom gig, that while it feels really crappy when you screw up, you always have another chance to make it right.

You have no choice but to wake up and try again.

Make me feel better by sharing one of your low parenting moments in the comments.