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Pay-As-You-Wish at the NY Aquarium

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This past Friday, Kamryn, my niece and I ventured out to a popular locale that I have only passed on the train but have never actually wandered inside of. We went to the New York Aquarium, located at Surf Avenue and West 8th Street, steps away from the Coney Island boardwalk. I chose to go on Friday in particular because every Friday after 4pm is “pay-what-you-wish-donation”. The standard ticket price is $11.95, so I really wanted to take advantage of this perk. I paid a $1 for each of us.
Apparently, as to be expected, a trip to the aquarium– that initially opened in Battery City in 1896, and has graced the Coney Island neighborhood since 1957 sitting on 14 acres of land–was on the agenda of many folks. As we darted off the train and down the steps and I nudged the girls ahead of me so we could try our best to secure a spot that wasn’t dead-last on the line, we saw just how far it wrapped around! The aquarium staff circled the line to alert us that due to the length of the line and time (we got on about a quarter to 5) not everyone was guaranteed entrance. The cut-off time for letting visitors in is 5, an hour before closing.
In spite of the current renovation (that should be completed some time next year) that has caused some parts of the aquarium to be off-limits, we had a pretty swell time. We were able to take in the exquisite coral reefs. We stared in wonder at the assortment of fish swimming around in a frenzy who paid us absolutely no mind. They were used to being on display and were therefore unfazed by the bugling eyes, opened mouths, and flashing cameras tracking their every move. There were various stations that displayed fish from around the globe. It was clear that the fish was the girl’s favorite part. They were reluctant to leave when I attempted to usher them elsewhere so we could take in all we could in less than an hour and so that I could get the most out of my $3. There were still sharks (which was my personal fave) and penguins to see. There would be no sea lion show for us. By the time we got there, all the seats had already been filled.

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After leaving the aquarium, we sauntered over to the amusement park (how could we resist the temptation?) and the girls went on a few rides in Deno’s Park (though upon leaving we saw that Luna Park had much cooler rides: a must-go for next time). We ate, they played in the sand, and we boogied to the brave souls singing karaoke at the DJs headquarters.

A day well spent.

Where are some places you enjoy going with your kids that are inexpensive or free?

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Nebraska is to Lincoln as Frankfort is to…? C’mon You Know This!

Fireworks have illuminated the skies, barbecues are winding down, and 62 hot dogs later, Matt Stonie has become the new Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest winner! It’s the Fourth of July, and contrary to popular belief, today is not America’s birthday. It is, as its name suggests, the day the initial 13 colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. No, you have not stumbled upon a history about the great U.S. of A., although a summer lesson can’t hurt, especially for America’s youth… (my segue has finally arrived). According to the National Summer Learning Association, “More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.”

As a future educator, a semi-helicopter parent, and a self-proclaimed nerd, learning doesn’t stop just because the final school bell has rung; it is year-round for me. Just ask Kamryn. Besides frequent trips to the library and completing the required summer packet her school gives to rising students at the end of each term, I always ensure Kamryn has a leg up for the upcoming school year.

Mandated Life's Work. Kam's almost done!
Mandated Life’s Work. Kam’s almost done!

As June was drawing to a close, my newest project (that actually fits right in with today’s holiday…I swear I didn’t plan it) for Kamryn was having her learn all of the U.S. state capitals and be able to locate each state on a map. I had her write out each state, capital, and abbreviation and recite them to me, to ensure she got the pronunciations just right. I then printed out a map of the U.S. and I am having her study that as well. I remember having to learn the state capitals and an instructor (was it Mrs. Butow in 5th grade or was it Ms. Boyke in the 4th?) who told us we would be tested on them. I can’t recall who it was, but I do recall the amount of time I put into studying. Every waking, free second was dedicated to committing all of the capitals to memory. And do you know we weren’t even tested on them?! So am I living vicariously through Kamryn with this project, you ask? Hmm…not even close. I just want her to be ready, should someone happen to ask her what the capital of say…Nebraska is. Anyone know, anyone? Give up? Lincoln! What always trips me up is that Lincoln’s capital is Nebraska, but he was born in Kentucky. I have always gotten the two capitals mixed up. A way I try and remember Kentucky’s capital (Frankfort) is by thinking about hot dogs, something I’m sure everyone has had at least one of today.

The list. I eventually printed a copy out for her. However, that along with the map have gone missing.
The list. I eventually printed a copy out for her. However, that along with the map have gone missing.

To be clear, there is by far no hardcore, anxiety-ridden studying taking place in learning these state capitals. We practice at random times: on the bus on her way to her summer camp, during commercial breaks while lounging on the couch, or while we’re walking to the grocery store. The less she gets right, and I win a foot massage! Child labor at its best. Motivation to get them all right? I think so! I have made this a fun activity (minus the foot massage part) with zero pressure. I have allowed her to test me (which she absolutely loves) and she even quizzed her little cousin just yesterday. I realize she has worked super hard all year-round and doesn’t need any extreme demands placed on her. I realize the rejuvenating factor of summer and respect her need to be a kid and luxuriate in the many adventures summer provides. But I also realize the importance of balance.

We’re starting with the U.S. and then I’m aiming internationally! I admittedly need a refresher on the latter, so this will be win-win! By pushing her to be aware of the world around her, I also reiterate to her the importance of traveling and that Brooklyn, New York (although quite cool) is not the only place this universe is made out of.

What are some ways you keep your kiddie’s brains sparking during the lazy days of summer? Or do you allow them to lounge from the last day of school until the night before the first day (No judgement)? I would love to hear!

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Indulge in “Little Things”!

Hiiii everyone! It’s been way too long since my last post (313 days to be exact)! Although I originally set out to post a few times a week, I took an unexpected hiatus. Life happened…as it tends to do every now and then.

A lot can happen in 313 days! For starters, I moved shortly after I wrote my last post. I must say, moving was probably one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. There’s the deconstructing of everything you have ever collected and deciding what is worth salvaging and what should not be apart of your next chapter. Then of course there’s the cost. However, by the grace of God and a few awesome, awesome, awesome individuals, it was far from the financial drain I was expecting (one quote totaled a little over $1,000!). That apartment was the only home I lived in as an adult. I moved in at 19, (so technically I did live with my mom from the age of 18 until that point), eight months pregnant, unemployed (won’t He do it!! Jesus!), and penniless! I had just emptied my bank account, which I literally had just enough to cover the first month’s and security.

quote about living

My first place had seen me through quite a few trials and triumphs. It’s where I learned to prioritize my finances. I had many “Rent OR Debates”. Should I pay my rent, or spend it on what I know is going to be a “What Happens In Vegas…” kind of girls weekend? Should I pay my rent or buy these shoes (that already feel like I’ve jogged backwards in them for four hours although I’ve only been standing in front of this miniature seat/mirror at DSW for the past four minutes contemplating if these slightly snug pumps are worth a corn on my left pinkie toe) that would look amazing with the multi-colored sequined dress with the tags still on hanging in my closet?

Hmph! If those walls could talk. The friends, the foes, the friends who became foes. The love, the loathe, the emotional rollercoaster and life-defining moments that was the majority of my early-to- late twenties. My first place was Kamryn’s only home until age eight. By the time I was her age, I had already lived in a number of residences and would be moving from Puerto Rico back to New York, where I would have several more homes before finally settling down.

Days after my move, I also started student teaching. So when I should have been sorting through mugs and mistletoe, I was coming up with English lesson plans for high school students. Moving boxes went untouched, dinners became mundane, quick fixes. I was beyond stressed. I started to lose weight and my hair! I couldn’t even conceive of writing anything outside of work or school.

Don't live the same year 75 times and call it a life.

So we moved, I taught, Kamryn started 3rd grade and exhaustive State Test prep ensued. We adopted a dog (Kody), and within three months, had to give him away. Kamryn had an epic 9th birthday celebration. I stopped using heat on my hair (an addiction I have tried breaking on innumerable occasions but have proudly since stuck with). I learned how to make shrimp mac and cheese, fell in love with all things Motown (just listen to my Pandora playlist), took and passed a few teacher certification exams, embarked on a mission to read ALL or at least MOST of the classics (like what in the world will I talk to my future students about if I don’t).Kamryn got promoted to the fourth grade (yayy!) and as always, I did some soul searching along the way.

I always knew I would find my way back to this blog…eh-em, not only because I am paying for it, but because it allows me to share some of the things circulating in my mind. In addition to being super busy, another reason I haven’t written in all of this time is because I felt I had to write these epic, earth-shattering posts that would immortalize me in blogosphere fame and garner me innumerable hash tags, making me an instant trending topic. In retrospect, I felt as though I was only putting on display the polished china only used when guests are expected, and ignoring the faded discount Made In Indonesia plastic cups that were used 98% of the time and regardless of price, had defined the majority of my life, more than any china ever could.

Life is like a camera

This time around, with this blog, I want to capture the “little things” which may in fact be the big things. The things that may get overlooked but are, on closer inspection, the most cherished. What I have (re)discovered during this hiatus and am training myself to etch into my ever-changing perspective, is that it really must be about the journey and not the destination. The greatness may be in accomplishing that eight course Thanksgiving dinner that everyone will be raving about until next Thanksgiving, but remember the blunders? How many times you changed the menu, undercooked your practice chickens (we weren’t really a turkey-eating family growing up)? Sure I beam with pride when I remember my undergraduate graduation. Years of studying, writing last minute term papers, and researching paid off. But my most fondest memories are of the process of getting that degree, and not so much the actual degree.

I’ve learned to exhale, take in the moments, observe the sunset/trees/flowers/the way Kamryn methodically styles the hair of her Barbie’s and bust heads. This time around, I want to capture the presentness in the way life should be lived. I want to do away with (as much as I can)the hustle and just be. I want to capture an aspect of motherhood/my daughter on a daily basis. That’s right. Daily. Crazy how I am aspiring to go from 11 months and no posts to posting everyday!

These are my thoughts. These are my plans. I welcome you to come along for the journey, and encourage you to do the same in your life. To capture in some way, perhaps a daily picture/sentence/quotation/ that stood out to you on that particular day. Write it in a journal, start a new Instagram account chronicling these little things. And then reflect, because reflection is one of the best teachers. Reflection, if done right, forces you to grow. I am all about growth.

So take a moment, as many as you need… Indulge in your moments!