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Tease you? Don’t mind if I do!

It’s been too long. I do not have heavy facts at the ready that can explicitly attest to this. There is no spreadsheet that shows the number of times I have used particular words or touched on specific topics, but I would bet my last Kit-Kat stick (be lucky, you’ve caught me at the right time. My very first smoothie cleanse is on the horizon so toxins be gone!) that I have begun more than one post with this exact sentiment. I have been gone for too long. Life distracts me and I am like a novice magician, fumbling to keep my collection of lightweight vinyl balls from hitting the ground. I have yet to crack the code of how to balance it all. I am working on it though. I am seriously entertaining creating an hour-by-hour schedule that may read something like: 1) 6:00 pm-7:00 pm: Read two chapters of (insert one of the seven bookmarked, dogeared books currently on my night table) 2) Call mom back: 7:15 pm- 7:30 (7: 45 if she starts off the conversation with “Ebonee (pronounced Hhe-bon-knee…in her distinctive Jamaican tongue) you won’t beellieevvee what happened yesterday!” This is a sure sign that this will be a convo about a coworker or a bus driver or a grocery store attendant who has yet again done her wrong (;-) love you, Ma!)

Moral of the above rant? You’ve missed out on loads and I have loads to tell ya! Keeping this blog’s tagline at the forefront of all that I write: One single mom’s meditations on motherhood, meeting “The One”, and mesmerizing her daughter…one adventure at a time, I have so much to share! Kam and I have indeed gone on many adventures and she has been quite mesmerized! In addition, touching on “The One” part of that tagline, although I do not recall if I have ever shared matters of the heart before…I am madly in love with the man I know God created me for (as is he) and I yearn to share my testimony.! I have so many other meditations I’d like to share, so please stay tuned.

Moral of the above second rant/tease? Stay tuned and keep reading. As summer winds down for most, my summer is about to become extremely busy, but I am determined to finish what I started with this blog… Sharing my life and leaving a legacy.

Thank you for your patience, support, and understanding. Please stay tuned…it WILL be worth your while. 🙂

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Black Shootings and Rainbows and Butterflies

Last night, Kam and I did something we have never done before: watched the news together. In shielding her from the harsh realities of the world via news broadcasts, I aim to allow her bubble of innocence to stay afloat for a bit longer. I don’t want her idea of the great possibilities of the world to come crashing down just yet. I want her to believe that the world is full of greatness and magic and she can be and do whatever she wants, period. No disclaimers. No if only you weren’t a Black woman… I do not wish for her to be aware of all of the obstacles that await her or the ugliness of mankind. She has her entire life to get thoroughly acquainted with real world issues and only a few to indulge in being a kid. For now especially, I want her to see the brighter side of life.

I find myself doing circus tricks just to keep her unaware of the way things are.

There is a part in The School of Rock (a movie that has recently been on repeat ever since I cut off cable…see My Consistent Inconsistencies) where Summer, the pretentious over-achiever, informs Mr. S that although he tried to glamorize the role in the band he has assigned her to: groupie, she has in fact discovered that they are “Sluts…they sleep with the band!” I promise you, whenever that part is about to come on, I direct Kam’s attention elsewhere. I ask her to shift a little to the right on the sofa so I can get some more covers; I point off to the corner, shriek, and ask her if that is indeed a spider on the windowsill; I tell her it’s supposed to be a mild day tomorrow and maybe we’ll make it to the beach, take her cousins with us for an all-out girls-weekend; or I ask her what was it grandma said was the best way to get rid of the tomato sauce stain on her white dress (a dress she hasn’t worn in months, due to said tomato stain, and is by now too short for her)? I am not exaggerating with these examples. She wears a look of puzzlement at these random inquiries and statements as I monitor the exchange between Mr.S and Summer out of the corner of my eye and wait until the coast is clear! Success! Until next time…

Then there are the train ads. I’m telling you, you aren’t safe anywhere! It’s as if the entire universe is conspiring against me and my plan to preserve her innocence. There are ads for this show on VH1 called Dating Naked in a train station we frequent. It is a dating show, which–you guessed it!–is about potential love interests…wait for it, wait for it…dating naked! This particular ad, which is right around the corner from the turnstile we enter through, shows a man and a woman from behind, naked. We are saved from a complete mooning by wording on their derrieres. Is it crazy for me to feel that subway and bus ads, well public ads in general, should be rated G for the general public? If an advertisement is going to be placed in a public place, is it too much to expect it to be family friendly? Obviously, if I don’t want my kid to be exposed to raunchy dancing and full-frontal T&A, I will not take her into a strip club or watch certain television programs with her. But now I have to take a different route in the mornings or have her face forward while we’re passing by the ad just to avoid crap that should not even be displayed for the public in the first place? I don’t mean to sound extra prudish…but I have to protect what my kid sees! I refuse to allow the media to expose my child to certain things before the time.

Last fall, I got extremely infuriated at a homework assignment she was given. I contemplated calling her teachers, the principal, Channel 12 news!

I was outraged! It was a writing assignment that asked her to “Describe a family member that you look up to. Why do you look up to them? Who is it? How would your life be different without them?” Well, when I tell you after Kam wrote a response to the prompt, she came crying to me…! I didn’t know what the heck to think. I had no clue what upset her. She told me she didn’t want me to die and then showed me her writing response. I took a picture of what she wrote and have been trying for a while now to post it but of course my phone has diva tendencies and chooses now to express them! In any event, towards the ending of her page-and-a-half long response she wrote, “My mom means everything to me. Let’s say I don’t have a shoulder to lean on or someone to talk to everyday, I’ll be lonely.” I grabbed her tightly and let her know I wasn’t going anywhere. I wonder at the way the question was worded… Did other students have a similar interpretation? I decided against making it an issue because I thought I would just appear to be blowing things out of proportion and that maybe we were both just reading into it: Kam with her interpretation, and me with my accusation that her school was forcing a topic on my daughter that I wasn’t ready for her to explore.

She knows death happens. A few years ago we came home after a long weekend to find our gold fish floating at the top of its bowl, lifeless. So she knows animals, things, people, don’t last forever…at least in the worldly realm. But I don’t want her to think about her own mortality or me not being there. Just the other day she discovered a gray hair in the front of my hairline…because of course when they pop up, the intention is to be put on display for all to see! I had seen it there for a while, after my hysteria that followed the initial sighting, I had been too nervous to pluck it out. They say you pluck out one and 10 more grow back in it’s place. So I saw it but chose to ignore it and style my hair in ways that concealed it. She grabbed me and said, “No, momma! Don’t get old! You’re too young to get old!”She then yanked it out and handed it to me.

Last night, though, I felt it was appropriate for her to watch the 20/20 special on the recent Dallas sniper attacks against police officers by 25 year-old Micah Johnson. The attacks were in response to the horrific killings of two Black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling by police . She was intrigued by the footage and reporting. She kept saying it was all so sad. I didn’t get a chance to ask her her thoughts about what she just saw. I admit that I attempted to hide the image of Philando Castile, covered in blood after being shot be police, seemingly dead, as it came across the screen. I didn’t want her to see all of the graphic images. I didn’t want an image of a dead man covered in blood to be imprinted on her eyelids. I didn’t want to start a series of never-ending night terrors.

I’m happy I allowed her to see the special. She needs to be aware of some aspects of how Blacks are regarded in society. I don’t want her to be afraid to seek out a police officer when she is in trouble but I need her to also know the history of relations between Blacks and law enforcement. It’s a slippery slope: making her aware that hate is not the answer, but to “love” with one eye-open. These issues are part of American history, current events. I fully intend on raising a well-informed child, so I understand she needs to be appropriately enlightened. I do not want her to be afraid, but she needs to be aware.

I do not foresee us watching the news together every night. I won’t tell her of the latest homicide statistics in New York, or of the mugger who beat the old man over the side of his head for the $37 in his back pocket. She will not know of the rapist who is on the lose or of relatives who kill for inheritances. No. She does not need to know these specific details. What I do tell her is to always be aware of her surroundings. I tell her to look around her while we’re walking. Observe the people on the bus and train. I tell her to speak up when she knows things are not right and to trust that voice inside of her…because it will never fail her. She must trust the Holy Spirit who lives inside of her! I especially tell her that just because someone is an adult, it doesn’t mean she has to feel compelled to do what they say. If something seems off, she is to react immediately. I tell her if she is walking and someone tries to grab her, to yell like crazy and kick and scream. I have given her what I think are subtle glimpses into the negative side of things, without getting too graphic. I’m making her aware without doing away with her rainbows and butterflies.

I do understand that in a few short weeks she will be entering 5th grade (what her charter school considers the beginning of 6th grade…something I still wander about…)and topics will come up. I will be ready for her when she has questions, but the thing with childhood is to know when to introduce info and when to hold back… You have to know your kid and what they are ready for…

What are some things you shield your children away from? Have you had the discussion about the recent or past police-involved shootings of Blacks? If so, how did they go?

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My Consistent Inconsistencies

I worked out this morning…if it could be called that. I rolled out Kamryn’s blue yoga mat, that I purchased two years ago so she could use while out and about at various parks with her summer camp. The director of her camp, Ms. Ama, who always effortlessly mixes some African print fabric into her ensemble, is an enlightened vegan, Benin-born naturalista who is determined to infuse her kids and the kids she oversees with various aspects of culture and solid meaningful experiences. For instance, the schedule for this summer has them taking sewing, drama, and cooking classes, and painting and drawing in the park, all with seasoned professionals. They’ll of course be visiting a couple of museums, and other landmarks, pools, beaches, and a water park as well (because what summer is complete without splashing around in some body of water?) Last summer (I neglected to write this up) she orchestrated an event that showcased what I must say were the kid’s pretty impressive performance skills (pics and videos posted below). Please note:…well scratch the video part. WordPress insists I upgrade, i.e. more $$$ so I can upload videos. I wanted to show you some dope videos of Kamryn, Ms. Ama, and another young lady performing at last year’s event, but I only have the pics. I will fork over the cash…at a later date…) as well as other talents. She was even planning a trip to Africa for this year. That has unfortunately been postponed but as soon as the opportunity resurfaces, we’ll certainly be on board.

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Last year at Ms. Ama’s event. Another child painted her face.
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Last year at Ms. Ama’s event. Another child painted her face.

But I digress.

Kam used to workout all of the time on that yoga mat. At one point, she had become obsessed with the practice. In the afternoons after returning from the summer camp, she couldn’t wait to show me the latest position she’d learned from Ms. Ama. I’d be sprawled out on the sofa, semi-conscious after my second or third serving of ice cream and Kam would be somewhere in the corner, intertwined in what looked like a pretty painful arm, leg, and elbow pose, while I’d ask her to toss me the remote control which was only a few inches away from me. Now, however, things aren’t quite the same. I mean she uses her yoga mat all of the time…just not in the same capacity. It is laid out, parallel to her bed, and is in the perfect position to shield her feet from the cold wooden floors when she gets out of bed in the mornings. Now she uses it as a rug, a floor mat. She sits on it while playing Barbies. It acts as the community her Barbies, as well as Monster High dolls, Moxie Girlz, and La Dee Das, inhabit. Nothing happens outside of the parameters of the 6 1/2 foot long, 1/4 inch thick blue rubber. It is where the fanciful tales she conjures up are carried out. She uses it during pretend play with her cousins. They wrap it around themselves fashioned after capes and transport one another on it while running deliriously down the hallway as I threateningly yell, “I’m not going to anyone’s hospital today!” Presently, it is wrapped around the balloons and teddy bear she received a few weeks ago from her graduation (more on that in another post). Smh…This is what it has been whittled down to.

And I digressed again…

But this morning, I grabbed her yoga mat, laid it out in my room facing my wall-mounted vertical mirror, slid into my two-tone orange sports bra and five-year-old pair of white, gray, and blue Pumas, and started doing some jumping jacks. I then stumbled into a series of lunges, sit ups, and arm curls with the use of some half-full paint cans that have been taking up space under my kitchen sink for months. While my goal was to work out for at least 20 minutes, I struggled to make it to 10. My ultimate aim is to wake up every morning at 4:00 and work out for a half hour before starting my day. Sadly, I can count on one hand (and still have fingers left over) just how many times I have carried out this routine.

I am not consistent with many things…

Some time ago, I decided that I would begin giving Kam an allowance of $10 a week. An odd number of weeks later, every payday without fail, she likes to remind me of the sum of money that is owed to her. She claims I am now up to $70.

I am supposed to be keeping monthly lists of all of the spectacular miracles God has bestowed upon us this year. I’ve jotted a few down in my planner in January, but since then, they have all just been mental notes.

I fluctuate between sending Kam to bed at 8:30 or 9:00. The latter time has been the victor lately.

I allow her to eat in her room on some days but forbid the act when I step on cookie crumbs and I am hampered from crossing from one side of her room to the other due to random spots of sticky juice residue. I am apparently hit with amnesia because days later, she is munching on nachos while laying in bed.

I personally do not allow her to paint her fingernails, but a few weeks ago at school, she won two “Mani and Pizza” events with her favorite teachers at a Scholar Dollar Auction due to her overall superb performance. So within a span of five days, she went from rocking a glittery blue sapphire hue, to a shimmery berry violet.

I went from never turning down any category of food, to transitioning into a vegetarian and dragging Kam (with nose turned-up at the night’s sometimes unidentifiable fare) along for the ride. I continue to fluctuate every now and then.

In an attempt to bring my family closer together, I called and texted them all and told them I would be instating a mandatory dinner at my place once a month (every third Saturday to be exact). I harassed them until they agreed they’d show up, and informed them that not coming to the dinner was not an option. They were advised that they need only bring their appetites, and I would take care of the rest. I imagined we’d play Uno and Charades and reminisce about the good ‘ole days that weren’t all that good but weren’t all that bad either, while Marvin Gaye (who I’m sure is the most happenin’ stud behind those Pearly Gates) would serenade us in the background. I’d serve a meal whose recipe they would all beg for and they would laugh at the jokes no one but Kam ever does. Their glasses would never run low of homemade iced-tea and their palates would be thoroughly satisfied. I’d be the perfect hostess. That dinner has only happened once. I made lasagna that the younger members of the family just picked at, left the garlic bread in the oven for too long, ran out of iced-tea and we didn’t play Uno once!

Two days ago, Facebook reminded me that it has been two years since I started this blog. Two years and 11 (this will make 12) posts later…I’m still trying to consistently write…

Yes. I am inconsistent with many things, but I am also becoming consistent with many others.

I don’t know if I would call it a ritual, but one of the things I have religiously (no pun intended) begun with Kamryn is what my maternal grandmother, Maisie, may God rest her soul, started with my sister and I when we were little ones. Every night, before she tucked us in, she had us kneel at the foot of our beds and read Psalm 91. She would sit on our beds, listening, ensuring we didn’t skip over any words and pronounced every thing just right. With Kam, I do the same (I have also snuck in Psalm 23). So this isn’t just a practice in Rote memorization and her early experience with the Word will leave a positive impression, I have also had her tell me what she feels the chapters are saying. I need her to be able to pull from scripture when she is faced with a difficult situation and needs encouragement. I need her to be able to know who she is according to who the Lord has ordained her to be, and what He has promised for her life.

I have also made a concerted effort to faithfully tithe. Although it makes it onto my list of what needs to be paid on payday, as I sit at my kitchen table amidst all of the bills that routinely flood my mailbox (some admittedly unopened because ignorance is sometimes bliss), it has more often than not been one of the first to go when I just couldn’t see how ends would possibly meet. Phew! Was that really just one sentence? If Virginia Woolf can do it so can I, gosh darnit!

What I’ve come to realize, especially through my pastor (Tyrone Stevenson at Hope Christian Center in Brooklyn, New York) and the debt-free teaching he recently finished, is that tithing is not about money. It is money that is reserved only for God. Tithing is about being obedient to God. He has watched over me my entire life. He has given me what I have prayed for and kept those things at bay which He knew would harm me. He has seen to it that through the struggles (and boy were there/are there many) that no matter their weight, we never capsize under pressure. I have seen His hands at work and I have been left in great wonder. With all that He does, He only asks for 10%. How can I not give that to the kingdom? What I’ve also come to realize is that tithing is a great management tool. We give 10% and manage on the 90%. Looking at if from that perspective, I am able to prioritize my allocations.

My debt upsets me because I could be doing so much more with the money I’m forking over to credit card companies and my charge accounts. That money could be used for our travel expenditures. By the time I was Kam’s age, I moved to another country from the States, and traveled to quite a number of places. Kam has not traveled far and wide as of yet. That money could be used for Kam’s savings for college or as a down payment for a house.

I’m obsessed with watching HGTV. At first, Kam wanted nothing to do with these viewing sessions, but I’ve slowly won her over. On some nights, we’ll snuggle close and watch potential homeowners search for and renovate their dream homes. We learn lingo like short sales, subway tiles, farm sinks, and crown molding. I anxiously wait for the opportunity when I can impress an audience and ease those terms into conversations. The other night while we were watching the network, she turned to me and said that when we get a house, she wants a tire swing in the yard. I want to be able to do that for my daughter (she’s ten…so a little sooner rather than later). I want to be able to give her that tire swing and set the foundation for her not to have to struggle the way I have. I know for a fact that that day is imminent. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind. I just have to be consistent in the ways in which I spend my money, and the ways I do not…

So I’ve embarked on a journey to cut costs as much as I can. The first thing I did was cut the cable off. It is something I would not have done months ago. I would have argued that not having a TV was not normal. It was simply un-American! What would Kamryn watch in the afternoons and weekends? How would she feel? Pressing a button on the remote when we plopped down onto the sofa was second nature to us. How would we function without it? But we haven’t had cable since the end of April and I don’t miss it one bit. We are able to live stream some shows or watch them after they have aired, and Netflix keeps us pretty content, so we haven’t been missing out on much. There is a huge difference in not being able to automatically press a button at the ready. A little more work is required: turning on my laptop, searching for a DVD, turning on the DVD player, closing the DVD player… These acts barely break a sweat but they are less automatic. Not being able to turn the television on and allow in an onslaught of varying highs and lows has set the tone for a new kind of peace in our home.

Kam, who would arrive home and before I could close the door behind us, had already dashed passed me and tuned to the Disney channel, now doesn’t have that same urge to seek visual entertainment. To be honest, days into the no cable shocker, I didn’t know how she was going to survive it. She would brood about like she had just been told there would no longer be any mac and cheese in the existence of the entire universe…like ever! Anyone who truly knows Kam knows that if she could have one dish for the rest of her life, it would be that. She would ask me every other day, when the TV would be back on. But she has since taken up a new hobby. She has been trying for days now to get the cobra lanyard stitch down pat. She recently obtained a lanyard bounty and it is all that interests her. She’ll watch how-to videos on YouTube, manipulating the plastic strings through loops and hoops until she throws them down in frustration because it doesn’t look like the one on the screen. But she is trying though and I know she will eventually master it. This is something I could never accomplish when I was a child so I commend her dedication.

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The cobra lanyard design that has become her new obsession!

Not having cable has in fact brought Kamryn and I closer together. I was always the kind of person who never saw the point in watching a movie or reading a book more than once. But ha! Now that I’m training to be an English teacher…that reluctance has long gone out of the window. But since cable is a thing of the past, we cackle at the impersonations of the sketchy potential housekeepers Mrs. Doubtfire gives and laugh out loud at Jack Black’s ridiculous antics in The School of Rock. I look forward to these moments. Before, we’d often watch TV in separate rooms. It’s been cool having more of these shared experiences.

Making a conscious decision to get a handle on my debt has also meant that I’ve cut costs in other areas as well. I have taken on the arduous task of forgoing the hair salon and resorted to attempting to style our hair myself! Those who know me know that styling hair is not my forte’. Cornbraids have never been my thing (and still aren’t) but I have (with the help of countless much appreciated natural hair YouTube tutorials) learned how to flat-twist! (Pats self on back!)

Example of when Kam has gotten her hair done at the hair salon…
Another hair salon style…

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And when I have done Kam’s hair… For us…flat-twists are the new black!

But geesh…looking at my above inconsistencies, I really hope I don’t/haven’t confused the heck out of Kamryn…

Parenting is a series of trials and errors. Just when I do a back flip for finally getting it (whatever that it is that perplexed me at any given moment with Kam) I am placed in another maze to meander my way through.

What I am learning, and realizing (especially from reading all of my inconsistencies above), is that there are times to be flexible and times to really lay down the law. There are times I refuse to bend, and times I bend a tad. The trick is knowing when to do both.

The one consistent aspect of my adult life has been Kamryn. She has been a reality since I was given my due date at 18 and barely wet behind the ears…

I was a member of Planet Fitness and Lucille Roberts at the same time for about one year. One was closer to Kam’s after school, the other, our home. I figured if I couldn’t make it to one, I could to the other. During that time frame, I probably worked out at the gym maybe five times. Will I ever join a gym or workout in the mornings at home on a consistent basis? I have yet to start back up our family dinners and because I am occasionally repulsed by meat, I have banned it from my home and brought back Tofu Thursdays. On those nights, Kam opts to make her own sandwich instead. Will I ever completely bend one way? Will my world ever be filled with just black or white and not gray? Will I always have gray areas? Will I faithfully commit to a standard blogging schedule or will the next time you hear from me be in five months? Truth is, I don’t know. I can’t answer any of these questions at the moment.

Truth is, ten years in…as a momma, and 29 as a person and there are many things that I am still figuring out. I have my absolute non-negotiables, but I negotiate the negotiables, because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you negotiate?

Whether we have tofu or beef tacos and Kamryn eats at the kitchen table, while playing Barbies, or while doing a pirouette in last year’s Halloween costume after having painted her nails a neon green, one thing that will never change is my dedication to being the best momma to Kam. It comes first above all else. So sometimes I blow with the wind, other times I do not. Either way, I will continue to nurture and care for Kam like she is the best present I have ever received, because she is.

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I should be finishing my lesson plan right now. I will have my second observation tomorrow and I have to hit a home run because I barely made it onto the field with my first observation. I must redeem myself, so I should be practicing in the mirror right now, practicing when to pause after a passage has been read, what questions to ask and to whom, as well as what my introduction will be. I will do all of that, by the grace and favor of God it will all come together. But first…this. I have so many unfinished drafts on here as well as on my phone…that no one has been privy to. I will start a sentence, stop it, reason it is a message that can be heard later on, that it’s not a big deal, and continue on with whatever demands my attention at that particular point. But this…this I must get off my chest… The other stories will get to see the light, and they are no less riveting and thought-provoking. However, there are just some things you see that stay with you…forever… Forgive me in advance.  In  my  rush, my commas may not all be in the right place and my subjects may not all agree with my verbs, but I must release this. This may not be as eloquent as to what I’m used to…

I got home a little while ago from church. I joined the Strip Church Ministry in January and we had a meeting tonight. We discussed business matters, assigned roles for our next event, and then we watched a documentary about girls…(in these very same five boroughs) as young as 12, prostituting! I was dismayed, to say the least. It’s one thing to hear that there are young prostitutes, but it’s another to hear about their lives in their voices. It was chilling and devastating. One girl said she wanted to be an archeologist and discover remnants of Cleopatra and King Tut in Egypt before she became a prostitute, but instead she was discovering tricks that would keep her customers coming back. Watching these girls speak of finding more solace out on the streets sleeping with multiple men than at home where hell broke loose every night with the incessant arguments was just so sad. The resounding message that I heard was that these girls stayed where they were because they were offered some semblance of a family. They were looking for something they weren’t receiving at home.

I’m currently student teaching at a middle school. There are struggles, but there are triumphs and all-in-all I love  it.  Whenever I am in front of the class or speaking with the students one-on-one, I can’t help but look at them and try and envision their future. Who will they become? Do they know how talented they are? How much potential they have? Do they know that the world is theirs? They will be in charge of seeing this world to its next stages and I’m not sure they know how awesome and brilliant they are. When I observe my seventh grade girls,  and here the filth that comes out of their mouths and see the shirts that expose too much skin, or the hairstyles that are fit for women much older than them, I shake my head, not in judgment, but questioning. Where did the parents go wrong? Or is it jut a natural progression? A phase? Naturally my thoughts wander to my own child and the knowledge that her innocence will not last forever. There are some things in life you wish you can just preserve forever, but reality sets in, reality must set in for all of us.  I got my period when I was 10, Kam will be 10 in a few short weeks and I don’t think she’s ready for that. I seriously pray that hers comes later on. I remember bawling when I got my period; I knew with that beginning of a new cycle would be the inevitable end of another…

After I watched that video, I held Kamryn a little closer and looked deep into her eyes. She thought I was listening intently to the story she was telling me, but I was looking deep in her eyes looking at all that she can become. I was looking at her thinking how truly spectacular she is. We owe it to our children as parents to do whatever need be to make sure our children turn out better than us. There are things that are just outside of our control but I strongly believe  it all starts in the home.

It is essential to speak life into your children, and make them hear it to so they can start to believe and develop their own sense of worth and importance. I pray over Kamryn while she is sleeping and while we’re about to leave in the mornings. I pray at random times as well. I let her hear me tell her how phenomenal she is and what great things are in store for her. I speak life into her and let her know that greatness lives within her.

There are other things I can say but there is that top-notch lesson I have to construct.  I do hope my message was conveyed somewhere and I didn’t jump around too much…but know that I jumped for a reason. My message is simple, love your kids, hug them, love them and tell them. Do not make them ever have to wonder if you do. This should never be a question. What you don’t tell them, someone else with despicable intentions is waiting in the shadows eager to tell them. We will not lose our children to the streets. The streets and the fast life will not have a hold on our children.

And now a prayer…

Father God, please give us the strength, and wisdom to continue to raise our children  in a way that exceeds they way we were raised. Allow us to give them all that we had and all that we didn’t. Allow us to never lose the connection (and if we ever lose it or have lost it, allow us to get it back) we have with them. Father God please push them to come to us when they are in need. Push them to seek you. I banish all of wolves in sheep’s clothing those who seek to enter their lives. Father God, please allow our children to see that they are yours, your sons and your daughters and they shall never and can never belong to the streets. Father God let us not be passive when it comes to our children. Let us be intentional in all that we do when it comes to the beautiful beings you have entrusted us with. Allow them to fully encompass all who they are in You, Lord. in the name of Jesus, we pray…Amen!

Thanks for reading. lease spread the love, and the word!

 

 

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I Only Have a Kitchen Because it Came With the House

Chicken cutlets with Velveeta mac and cheese and broccoli; spaghetti, barbecue chicken and mashed potatoes; black beans and chick peas with rice; and curry shrimp, sweet plantains, and white rice.The above is the rotation of dinner dishes I prepare. If I’m feeling extra spontaneous, I’ll fry up some Whiting and serve it with a salad and yellow rice, or make some stuffed shells. But that’s pretty much all of the action my kitchen sees.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy cooking. It’s just that with my schedule, I’ve always leaned towards quick and simple dishes; basic ingredients and prep and cook times that can all be finished while working on homework with Kam. I don’t make the time to get fancy. I keep it mundane and look forward to Fridays when Golden Krust or Dominoes can tantalize our taste buds with something other than my sequence of seasonings and olfactory offerings.

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I’m dying to get this sign I found on Etsy. It speaks to my soul…and the TRUTH! Lol.

Truth be told, there is nothing I would love more than to be a good ‘ole fashioned Suzy Homemaker. I would delight in having use of a rolling pin, whisk, and that five-piece multi-colored cutlery set I purchased from Ikea a few years back just because it went with my newly painted yellow walls. Like what is a person supposed to do with all of those knives, anyway? I found one at a local discount store that works for everything and I use it just for that: everything! I dust the set off every now and then but the majority of those knives have barely been touched. I want to be covered in flour from head-to-toe. I want the phrase “I made this from scratch” to take on more meaning than just my garlic mashed potatoes (yawn). I want to cease being green with envy whenever my neighbor (who is from the south and has treated me to pecan pies and freshly baked bread on multiple occasions) opens her front door to air out her kitchen. I want to stop relying on Campbell’s and Progresso for hearty soups on chilly nights. Am I the only parent who has never made soup before?? (*hides face in shame*) .

We are three days into the new year, and yes, I guess I am one of those people many find annoying because I say and believe in hackneyed expressions like “New year/New me.” But I can indeed say this with authority because I don’t expect when the clock strikes 12:00AM on January 1st, I will undergo some automatic transformation and become an entirely new person. That’s just foolish. Rather, I have been putting in the work in the time leading up to this. I have been allowing things to ruminate in my head way before this day came around.

To put it plainly, I am tired of the culinary choices I present to Kamryn and I am desperate to try some new things. What better time than the start of a new year? However, leave it to Kam, and she would have chicken cutlets and Velveeta and broccoli every single night. I used to cook a wider variety of dishes but then I went on a 21-day “No Sweets/No Meats” Fast or the Daniel Fast . I then entertained and actually became a vegetarian for almost a year. Once I started conducting my own research though, I soon gave away all meats and all other animal protein that could be found in my kitchen and practically lived at Trader Joe’s. Kam and I would go there sometimes 2 to 3 times a week, lugging brown bag after brown bag up and down the subway steps. Although I now eat meat from time to very distant time, it does not have the same hold on my life it once had. I am easily repulsed by it. But this experience of cleaner eating has greatly limited what I want to prepare in my home.

Although I want to venture away from my comfort-zone (the exact phrase on my vision board is “No Comfort Zones”) when it comes to cooking, I admittedly become overwhelmed at the prospect of going into the unknown, and I settle for sticking to what I know.

Although Kam brags to anyone who would listen that I make the best Velveeta this side of the Atlantic, I need to expose her to other cooking methods, styles, and dishes. She loves to help me in the kitchen but I want to expand her role beyond “Breader of Chicken” and “Stuffer of Shells”. I know that kid has more to offer!

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Her fave! Circa four-years-old.
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“Breader of Chicken”
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Mommy and me!
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The finished product. Yummo!

So fast forward to my brilliant idea! I have decided to incorporate one new dish a week, be it, dinner or otherwise! I started small on the first morning of the year by having Kam make her own smoothie. This will be a greater way to not only incorporate more fruits and veggies into our diets, but it will also give her more confidence in the kitchen, an attribute that every child, not just little girls need to possess. She made a strawberry-banana smoothie, tasted my kale, banana, and flaxseed smoothie and opted to not finish the rest of it.

I’m challenging myself to go down the less trodden path and do away with my staple dishes, or just put new twists on old favorites. I must remember, Kam is watching, and tasting. How cool would it be to hear her brag about my homemade oatmeal cookies or Saffron Risotto with Mussels and Bottarga (as stated on page 252 of the Food & Wine cookbook that adorns my fridge that has barely been cracked open. I obviously use it for decorative purposes).

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My curry shrimp, sweet plantains, string beans, and white rice. This is one of my personal faves so I will put a twist to it, rather than totally obliterate it from the menu!
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That time I stepped outside the box. My vegatarian days AKA the Dark Ages for Kam. You’re looking at garbanzo and black beans, sauteed with sweet peppers, sitting on top Romaine Hearts and a side of tri-color quinoa!
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Needed some help from Ms. Crocker, but it came out great if I do say so myself!

I want cooking to be fun again. I want to see it as more than a chore; just something to be done. I want to do more than mechanically eat. I want to take out the robotic aspect of cooking I have assigned to it. I want to take pride in knowing that my hands, our hands prepared something really enjoybale and fun. I want us to prepare food not just because we need to fill the dinner plates, but because it is an act that will not only bring us closer together, but will ultimately give us more confidence and power.

So I’m just curious, do you also stick to your own rotation of dishes? If so, what are they? Or if you have no problem getting especially creative in the kitchen, please share your adventures!

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The “Inside Out” of My Probation

So it’s all done now. I went to court a few weeks ago and it’s been settled. I met with the attorney, signed the order in front of the judge, and left the office, relieved to put all of this behind me, behind us. Some may say I got off light: a year probation. If these past few months have been any indication, my punishment will most certainly last longer than a year. I think it is something that will stay with me for a lifetime. I originally started writing this post on August 3rd. It is now August 31st and I have finally found it in me to complete it. For the most part, I am finally able to speak about it without tearing up. This is a story I feel needs to be told, but there I go again, starting at the end. Let me take a few steps back and explain how I got here.

***

Kamryn sat with tears streaming down her face while sitting in front of my desktop and on my phone on a few occasions. She had become obsessed with searching for pictures of tanned Pomeranians, wrinkly-faced Pugs, teeny Yorkshire Terriers, and snow-white Maltese pups. She had come up with names for potential dogs (Susie, if it was a girl, Tiny Elvis, if it was a boy) and had pleaded with me to have one. As opposed to buying the Barbies she had originally intended to with her allowance she had been saving up, she used some of it to buy a few puppy magazines. She ripped posters of puppies from the magazines and plastered them all over her room. From the closets to the walls, to her front door. Before we moved (it will be a year next month) we would sit in our old apartment (which by the way only had one closet…one closet, two girls…gasp! A recipe for disaster!) day-dreaming about the things we would do in our new place. Having a dog topped big on the list.

Kam's room door.
Kam’s room door, full of her puppy love.

Whenever she would go visit her dad’s side of the family, she was surrounded by dogs. There was Mia, who had an array of pastel-colored hair bows she was never seen without, and Tigger who would topple her with licks as soon as she came through the door. She must have felt like the odd gal out. There was no Fido waiting for her at her front door when she got home and she desperately wanted to change that. She wanted entrance into the club. Eh em, contrary to what some think they know, I am not one to easily bend to Kamryn’s every desires. I can be firm and tell her no. However, I felt partially responsible for this need of hers and was thinking of at least entertaining her idea. After all, she is the only child, and regardless of the play dates I arrange, how many times we play Barbies and hide-and-go seek, or the proximity of her cousins who literally live around the corner, there is nothing like having your own…24/7 companionship. I grew up with two siblings, so I know firsthand.

So, armed with guilt and my-not-gonna-cave-no-way-no-how demeanor, on one crisp Saturday afternoon in March, we took a trip to Animal Care and Control of NYC. The plan was to just look at the selection of dogs, not to actually take one home with us. But things didn’t quite pan out as I had thought. I had a rational fear of dogs that prevented me from seeing why they were man’s best friend in the first place. I could only see teeth sharp enough to arrive at bone and had flashbacks of being chased by a stray hound for a block and a half when I was about ten, and the neighborhood terror Pluto, while I was on skates and stood motionless, bawling in front of the Alexis, my six-year-old nemesis at the time, who from my vantage point was taking a little too much pleasure in this.

The last thing I could fathom was willingly agreeing to be in charge of a dog! But that’s just what happened. It was as if I had lost control of the situation or perhaps I never had control to begin with. The truth was, although I was against it, for various reasons, I just wanted to make Kamryn happy. How hard could it be I thought (yeah right) ? Besides, Kam had also asked for a little brother or sister. I figured I could buy some time by giving her a pooch instead. So I signed some forms, changed his name from Salute (as named by the shelter staff) to Kody (a name I had planned to name my first-born son) slide some tags on his collar, and trembled out the doors, terrified of what lay ahead.

It was between Ziggy and Salute (who we later named, Kody). There was something about Kody...
It was between Ziggy (pictured here) and Salute (who we later named, Kody). There was just something about Kody…

Home on the first night, after we had him groomed and went on a mini-shopping spree at Petco.
Introducing Kody!! Home, on the first night, after we had him groomed and went on a mini-shopping spree at Petco.
Introducing Kody!! Home, on the first night, after we had him groomed and went on a mini-shopping spree at Petco.

Kody was a seven and-year-old Shih Zhu mix stray found in Bushwick. He was matted and I for one could not see the beauty that lay beneath his layers of thick black hair. He was restless and peed in every aisle in Petco when we initially left the shelter to have him groomed and buy dog stuff I didn’t know I should get(a spray that made him “go” only wherever you sprayed it…which btw did not work at all). He had separation anxiety. He would bark non-stop when we left him home. No matter what I tried: leaving the TV on to The Animal Planet or giving him free reign of my apartment, he would not pipe down. If he did, it was only temporary. He would start yelping again (as I would hear firsthand after closing the door and waiting to hear just what happened when we left).

He barked to the point where some wicked neighbor complained, hence the reason I had to go to court. My apartment complex does not allow dogs (although everyone and their mama has one! But that’s another story). Rather than choosing to fight a fight that for many reasons I felt I had grounds of winning, I decided to arrange for him to relocate to a different home. I was emotionally spent and just wanted things to go back to the way they were. I wanted to regain some semblance of peace once again. So I signed a piece of paper agreeing that I would not have dogs in my apartment for a year (visiting dogs included). The probation came with the terms that management could do spot-checks for an entire year, at a whim.

Trying on some new threads at Petco. He was not too happy about those shoes, or hat... Lol.

Trying on some new threads at Petco. He was not too happy about those shoes, or hat… Lol.

I am avoiding going into detail about the struggles we encountered. I don’t want this—neither is there a need for this— to be a play-by-play, day-to-day run-down of life with Kody. Maybe because it is 12:29 am and my alarm is set for 5:00 and allIwannadoisleep, or maybe, it’s because, (and I’m sure this is the more precise reason) I don’t want to relieve the pain of loving someone so much, and having to give him up. Although I thought I was about 90% healed, as I write this, it is clear that that percentage is a little too ambitious. We have come a long way since those first days when we had to find him a new home. I had to get rid of everything of his so I could stand being in my home without being blue.
Kam and I have come to the point where we are able to talk about him lovingly and are able to think back to the joy he brought us, not the pain his departure from our lives left us with. We are slowly filling the void his absence caused. I honestly did not think that was possible. We can now laugh when we remember the morning after we got him and how he, unable to wait for me to walk him, released his bowels in front of my bedroom door. We reminisce about the times he would, upon realizing I discovered his pee stains on my sofa, would run and hide behind Kam or under her bed. We laugh when we think about the times the three of us would play hide-and-go-seek together and he would find us every time. On one occasion, upon discovering me in the tub, crouched down on my knees, with my face to the bottom of the tub, he actually tried to jump in! Then there was the way I would spin him around on his back, vigorously rubbing his stomach, while he squirmed and laughed, like actually laughed. Up until that point, I had never heard a dog laugh before! Although we have many laugh-out-loud moments with Kody, I have my personal two all-time most touching Kody moments. The first is that whenever I would get really excited while watching a movie and start yelling at the screen as if the characters could hear me, Kody, who would be laying on the floor, or licking his fur, would immediately stop what he was doing and run up to me. He would lick my hand or knee or whatever skin was exposed at the time. He would then hurry to locate his toy. He did not like noise and his thinking was that if I played with him, I would be forced to take my mind off what he deemed had gotten me upset! Playing with his toys helped him, I’m sure he thought, so of course it would help me as well.

:-D

😀

My other moment is the time we were coming back from an early afternoon walk and had come across the neighbor who I am convinced complained on me. This neighbor and I had a tension-filled, yet controlled conversation while I held Kody in my arms while standing in front of my front door. I was clearly not pleased with his presence. I shut the door after telling him I knew it was him who complained on me, and did not think anything of it. Kody had no reaction and I was just glad to get him out of my sight. However, that day in the hallway when we were coming back from our walk, when Kody saw him, he started growling. Like teeth together, fury in his eyes, if I had let him go, the man there would have been blood, kind of growling. Now Kody wasn’t the kind of dog to bark or growl for no apparent reason. I was confused at this outburst, and it wasn’t until I closed the door that I connected the dots. He was defending my honor! He knew I didn’t like the neighbor, and he was showing his solidarity to my cause. I realized then that it’s true what they say: they are super loyal.

This post is filled with a lot of Kody’s effects on me, mainly because since he recognized me as the person who rescued him from his predicament (he would literally follow me wherever I went. If I hiccuped, he stirred, if I got up in the middle of the night, he wanted to know where I was going.) and he gravitated to me. However, Kody certainly had an effect on Kamryn. The most poignant lesson I know he taught me and that I have been sure to share with Kam, is to always step outside of my comfort zone. Growth cannot happen if you are always comfortable. He also emphasized the point to help those in need. He needed a loving home and I gave it to him. However, the lesson that is attached to that I shiver at even bringing to light is that, sometimes, love is not enough. I loved that dog beyond words, we both did, but all the love in the world could not keep him with us. On the same breath, he also drove home that some people and things are for a season. You don’t know how long you may have that person or thing in your life, but the wisest thing to do would be to enjoy it while it lasts.

Because who could resist a face like that??

Because who could resist a face like that??

At the start of summer, I took Kamryn to see the Pixar animated comedy-drama Inside/Out. That movie was amazing on so many levels. Without giving it away, the most essential theme was that in life, although it can be a struggle, no matter what, we must always choose happiness. The movie magnified the fact that there is an everyday struggle between joy and sadness, but above all, no matter the difficulty, we must choose laughter over sadness. The best is yet to come, and if we just hold on, keep the faith, and keep smiling, it will all work out in the end, it has to!


“Inside Out” a must-see!
As he nods off on my lap...zzzzz
As he nods off on my lap…zzzzz

That movie also showed that once a negative image is associated with a memory, even if that memory was positive before, it now becomes negative. I am fighting to keep the memory of Kody a positive one. His season with us was brief, but he taught us more than ever anticipated. We will always love you Kody. No matter where you are, no matter where you lay your head at night, no matter who tickles your tummy or holds you in their laps, or walks you as the sun sets on another day, you will always be a Johnson.
What are some extreme things you have done for your children, just to put a smile on their faces?

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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!