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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!

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The Great Debate…Well At Least One of Them

There are two main parenting choices I’ve made that have sent many in an uproar. They have been the impetus of countless parenting debates and have left opposing sides—after they have finished unleashing their fury—begrudgingly resolving to agree to disagree (glints of disdain in all eyes). Neither willing to see the others point of view and having an answer for every question, the issue never gets resolved.

The first source of contention was when I decided to become a vegetarian…and take Kamryn along for the ride. Everyone told me I was being selfish and taking away a crucial part of what it meant to be a kid: Ballpark franks at annual family reunions; Sloppy Joe’s as middle-of-the-week-meals— I mean, c’mon! What kid doesn’t love Sloppy Joes’s? ; and Thanksgiving! What’s Thanksgiving without a juicy ‘ole bird in the center of the table? They told me if I wanted to eat hay, I could go right ahead, but Kamryn, as slender as she was, needed some good ‘ole chitlins, and ham hocks…like Mama and ‘dem made. Animal flesh is what built us, and I was just messing up something that didn’t need any fixing. I’ll tell you how that debate ended at a later time… 

However, this other controversial choice that I’ve made, has been what, parents have, in so many words, described as being the root of all evil for girls. It will apparently lead them into a life of vice and shame. This thing, that I’ve been given so much grief over for allowing Kamryn to do, has been—wait for it (puts on helmet and takes cover under desk) —allowing her to wear nail polish! Boom!

polish

Now let me just say that when my sister and I were growing up, we were only allowed to wear nail polish on very, very special occasions—when we left the country…and we only did that once (on our first and only trip to Jamaica when we were about seven and five, respectively). I remember the color we chose…fire engine red! Our aunt painted it for us, amidst open suitcases and wrapped trinkets for relatives we had never met, on the day before we were to leave. But besides no watching of television on school days, (except ABC’s TGIF lineup that included, Perfect Strangers, Family Matters, and Step-by-Step…any 80’s babies out there?), we weren’t allowed to swear or waste food, we had to say our prayers each and every night, and we were not allowed to wear nail polish…unless, as stated before, we were traveling to see very, very distant, never-before-seen…or spoken to, relatives.

Now fast forward some twenty-plus years, and I’m now the parent, who, for some time, implemented the same “no polish” rule in my household. Whenever Kam saw me rifling through my impressive collection of polish, indecisive of which color mood I was in (was I feeling for a cunningly coral hue, or was it going to be a subtle navy blue kind of day?) her eyes would light up and then instantly dim when she met mine and heard my response. I would tell her she was too young, and had to wait until she was at least 13 before any color would ever grace her tips. She would whine and complain but I was stern in my ruling.

And then…for her fifth birthday…all of that changed. I took her to the hair salon, bought her a white fluffy bear with pink ears at Build-A-Bear (who she later name Rosie) we chowed down on some Spinach and Artichoke dip (our fav!) at Applebee’s, and then I thought, why the heck not…it would be fun! We then made our way to the nail salon.

However, I had my restrictions. I have always cringed when I saw little girls with painted finger nails. I’ve always thought it was highly inappropriate and they were much too young to be taking part in what should have been considered a rite of passage for girls older than they were. I have always vowed that if ever I had a daughter, I would never let her get her fingernails done. But the toes…well those were a different story. I’ve only ever allowed Kam to paint her toe nails. Seem pretty hypocritical, doesn’t it? Well my reasoning has always been that everyone should have pretty toes! What harm could a little varnishing of color on her little piggies do?

Apparently a lot! In discussions I’ve had, parents have spat that it would lead girls to act more maturely than they are. Some have said that if they’re painting their nails at 6 and 7, then when the time rolls around for when they should have started painting their nails (12/13) then they will want to do the things that girls at that age will be looking to do (dating and such…ha! Yeah right not in my house!) or worse! Cries of ‘Let children be children!’ have been hurled at me. My response has been that I wholeheartedly respect and adore childhood and want my daughter to bask in all of its glories. I want her to have endless sticky summers of Tag and Red Light, Green Light, One-Two-Three. I want her to have a fearless approach towards everything, and not have a single care in the world. I want her big dreams to never become deflated. I want her to always dream. For that’s what childhood is all about!

I tell these critical caretakers that I’m all about keeping my daughter innocent for as long as she possibly can be. I still leave cookies out for Santa and sneak to gobble them up before she awakes. I put crisp dollar bills under pillows and am as shocked as she is when her mini-molars are no longer tucked under her pillow. I don’t let her watch the news or mull over any impossibilities. I tell her there are none!

So to parents who question the repercussions that await me after having my daughter paint her nails, I tell them that irregardless of how they make it seem, I highly doubt that allowing a child to wear nail polish, as sparingly as I do (I have only allowed Kam to paint her toenails on one or two birthdays and maybe once every summer…I also limit her color choice to kid-friendly colors). Although I don’t believe there have been any studies done, I highly doubt that the painting of nails at a young age will be the determining factor in who my child will become. To the parents who scoff and criticize me while Kam and I sit side-by-side on our meticulously planned “Mommy/Daughter Days”, I ask them how much time do they dedicate to spending meaningful time with their child or do they just allow Beyoncé songs and Nickelodeon to do the job for them?

feet

I tell them that a compilation of things can lead to a “destructive” child. You could be the “best” or worst parent. You could have been a stay-at-home parent who decided to quit their job so they wouldn’t miss any milestones, or a parent who worked 60 hours a week. You can hid cameras, activate GPS monitoring devices on cars, read diaries, eavesdrop on phone conversations, ground, put on time-outs, and even take away electronic gadgets. But when it is all said and done, we as parents are not our children’s ONLY influence. The painting of nails will not lead to prostituting on Pennsylvania Ave. Perhaps bringing every man around who said you were cute, smoking, cussing, or allowing them to watch any kind of rubbish on television will. Or maybe all of that won’t. All we can only ever do as parents is our absolute best in instilling all the best we can in them!

After the fact, I used to feel guilty about letting Kam paint her toes. I would occasionally not allow her to wear sandals for fear of what other parents would say, but now those fears of criticism have passed. She’s my kid, and I’m raising her to the best of my ability. I’m also confident that if I continue to instill in her the right morals and values, and put God first, I’m sure a little color on the end of her limbs won’t lead to a life of doom.
My faith won’t allow me to believe that. It just won’t.

Proverbs 22:6:

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

So what are your thoughts? Is nail polish the root to all evil?

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“Stepping Up” Letter to My Daughter

Inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem, “Mother to Son”, an end of year tradition at my daughter’s school is to ask a parent to write a congratulatory letter to their child about all of the hard work they put in, in order to get them to the point of promotion to the next grade. The parent is then asked to read it to their scholar, on stage, at the Stepping Up Ceremony. This year, two parents were asked. If you haven’t figured it out yet, yours truly was one of them! Kamryn and I had a ROUGH year! In the letter, which I have reproduced below, I capture our journey…

” Kamryn, Kamryn, Kamryn! My, My, My! What a year we have had! I just want you to
take a moment and look around you and truly take all of this in. You are at your Stepping Up Ceremony. You have been promoted to the 3rd Grade! If we are to be honest with ourselves, we’ll admit, that you being here, on this day, amongst all of your fellow scholars who you learned alongside for the past 10 months, was not guaranteed. Being here, on this day, amongst your teachers, who worked so diligently to ensure you understood concepts and ideas, was not set in stone.

Kamryn, as YOU know, being here, on this day, was no easy task.

I remember the day that would define how we would live our lives for weeks to come.

It was a Saturday afternoon in late March. We had just sat down to go over your Life’s Work. That’s when I opened your folder and read the piece of paper that threatened to crumble my entire world. It was pertaining to your latest Reading Assessment score. It stated that you did not progress towards the next STEP level and if “you did not make sufficient progress in the coming months, then we may find it fit for her to repeat 2nd Grade.”

Time stood still. Air nearly failed to reach my lungs. If I wasn’t already sitting down, I am pretty sure I would have collapsed. “Repeat 2nd Grade?” My daughter, get held back a year? My daughter…having to hold her head in shame as she watched her former classmates step up to the next grade? My daughter…having to live with this stamp of disapproval forever?

Oh no! I could not let that happen! I could not fail you. I could not allow you to fail yourself. I could not allow you to believe that you could not do better than your very best. I could not allow you to believe for one iota of a second that you were not brilliant. I could not allow you to fall, not like this, not so soon, on the road to your destiny. Because Kamryn, when you cry, I bawl my eyes out. When you fall, I tumble. You are a part of me. When you’re sick, I’m ill. When you laugh, I am in utter bliss. When you triumph, life is great.

I was determined for YOU to prove to YOURSELF that this was just going to be a minor set back. That this trial, would ultimately, lead to your phenomenal triumph. You see Kamryn, long before you were even born, I made a promise to God that I would do whatever it took to see to it that you were a success. And I am not one for breaking my promises.

There was absolutely no way I could call myself a mother, and not fight for you, my daughter.
And fight, we did, together.

For the next weeks, our nights were super late and our mornings were super early. On many a night, you would finally lay your head down after 10, only having to get up at 6. After school, we would come home, and go through your reading, line by line. We would go over character motivation. I would repeatedly ask you what a character wanted. Why they wanted that and how you knew. We discussed how a character’s motivation affected their actions. We went over citing evidence. You HAD to show proof! We discussed character relationships and how one character affected another throughout the story. Thoughts, feelings, actions, evidence. Thoughts, feelings, actions, evidence. Thoughts, feelings, actions, evidence. And then you had to write it all down! We made charts and reviewed the previous night’s readings while you were getting ready for school, on your way to school, when I picked you up from school, and while you were eating dinner.

Nothing else even mattered. We ate, slept, drank and breathed what to look for when working on Step 8 and 9 Assessments. We even made up our own motivational cheers. While walking to school, we held hands, and prayed under our breaths. I fasted every Monday and spoke to God throughout the day.

Kam, I can honestly say that you have worked your very hardest this school year. Amidst the tears of frustration, the constant erasing that bore holes in your paper, and weekends that felt more like weekdays, you rose to the occasion and fought for your place at this ceremony.

Kammy, all of that finally paid off. You passed! You have earned your place, in third grade. Kammy you have EARNED it! And Mommy is ssssssoooo very proud of you and you should be proud of yourself.

Although we worked for you to pass these tests, I need you to know that you are more than a number on the bottom of your report card. You are more than a test level on an assessment. You are AMAZING, and make me immensely proud to be your momma. You are wise beyond your years. You know, it is you who often times comes up with the best solutions to our daily fiascoes. You are intelligent and fearless. Fun and feisty. Hilarious and imaginative. Clever and compassionate. Your zest for life, reminds me of the importance of slowing down to enjoy it.
Kammy, I must tell you that this challenging time that we overcame with the help of your teachers and first and foremost God, will be the first of many, many, many more hurdles to come. But if this year has taught you anything, I hope it is that whenever you are faced with a challenge, it is NEVER the time to cower in self-defeat. It is NOT the time to throw in the towel and quit. Rather, it is the time, to rise to the occasion and not only do more than your best, but beyond it. It is the time to push yourself, farther than you ever thought you could go. It is the time to fight for your success!

The Motto of LPBV is “Work hard, change history”. Therefore, I implore you, I encourage you, for all those who came before you, and made it possible for you to be here, I need you to fight for your place. Do not take your education for granted, because, it is the only thing that can never, ever, be taken away from you.

So Kam Kam, go forth, continue on your journey, Just know, that whenever you need your teachers at LPBV, myself, or the Man upstairs, we will always be there. I will always be your number one cheerleader. Kamryn, I love you beyond words. You are my world and the reason I do all that I do. I love you and I am proud of you! Congratulations, My Third Grader!”