Friday, March 8, 2019

4.0 and Running Goals


I'm officially a runner, y'all!

A couple of weeks ago, HEB and I ran the Al Gordon Brooklyn 4M race with the NYRR and I was able to check off one of my 2019 goals that I didn't even know I had!

Even though it was pretty cold that day and I had to wake up pretty early to get to Prospect Park, I'm happy that I did the race.


At the gym, I've been running 4 miles in roughly 45 minutes, but I wanted to cut that time down by five minutes and finish the race in 40 minutes. Because #goals.

I'm proud to say that my official end time was 39 minutes and 44 seconds with a 9:56 pace per mile.

Not bad at all.

And now I can set a new goal -- to finish off 4 miles at a slightly faster pace. (Emphasis on slightly.)

Also... setting running goals, pushing through (in the cold and early morning) to meet said running goals, and then setting new running goals officially makes you a runner, no?


Onward.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Kids Cooking Class at Nonna Beppa Soho


"I wish we could get one of those things for our house!"

This was Aiden, referring to a pasta maker. The crew and I attended a Kids Cooking Class this past weekend at Nonna Beppa, an authentic Italian restaurant in Soho, and let me tell you, the restaurant is the truth!


Not only are the majority of ingredients at Nonna Beppa imported straight from Italy (think cured meats and many cheeses), but the Kids Cooking Class is a Pasta-Making Class.

From scratch.

I'm talking combining the flour and eggs, kneading the pasta dough, allowing the dough to rest, dividing the pasta dough, rolling out the pasta, thinning the pasta, cutting the pasta, cooking the pasta, and last but not least, eating the pasta... the whole nine yards!






The kids thought it was so cool and they were really into it.

And, by "kids," I mean Aiden and the other big kids. August was too cool for school and had other toddler business to tend to. Like running up and down the restaurant, drinking water, and taking a nap. Oh, and the "eating" portion of the class.

(Fun Fact: Pasta is legit his favorite thing to eat. In fact, 9 out of 10 times, he eats some type of pasta for dinner and all I do is switch up the sauce. #toddlerlife)



I  was also seriously impressed with the entire class. And with the wine selection. (#dontjudgeme)

Tania, the teacher, helped the kids every step of the way by explaining everything to them in a kid-friendly way. She was also very patient, worked with the kids on the skills they were lacking, and shouted them out when they were rocking it out!

Thanks, Tania!

On the menu was tagliatelle and ravioli. And who knew that you used little cute square to make ravioli?!


While their pasta was cooking up, I enjoyed a little more wine, ordered my meal, and admired the chic and trendy scenery that is Nonna Beppa.




Then, it was time to eat! While the kids ate their delish pasta, HEB and I ate a yummy 3-course meal. Everything was cooked to perfection.




Interested? Kids Cooking Class takes place every other Sunday at noon. Visit the Nonna Beppa website to learn more information or to reserve your spot. 

(You're welcome.)

Thanks so much to the entire team at Nonna Beppa for the fun experience. The wine was amazing. And the pasta was pretty good too!

{Disclaimer: The kids were provided with a complimentary Pasta-Making Class and the grown-ups were provided with a complimentary meal in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.}

Friday, February 8, 2019

{Relationship Stories} Guarded

{photo via}
I'm hanging out on the Lower East Side at happy hour with wo of my girlfriends and after a few five-dollar lychee martinis, I get started with some details about this thing I've got going on with The Guy.

Specifically the fact that I'm all screwed up when it comes to dating and relationships and that I might kinda, sorta, really benefit from seeing a therapist.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Sigh. Catch yourself up by reading this. And then bear with me as I share my theory, y'all. 

I talk a lot about my past on this corner of the web -- my crazy, unstable, and very, very messy upbringing. At the age of five, I was a witness to my family getting evicted from an apartment that I lived in since birth. I was five-years-old. Five! Let that marinate for a minute. 

That night (when I was five-years-old... five!), we slept in a shelter, which is where we stayed for the next couple weeks until my mother took us to my maternal grandmother's house. And so began the crazy, unstable, emotional roller-coaster that would be my life.

I was in and out of foster homes, enduring emotional and physical abuse, not really feeling like there was someone around to protect me and look out for my well-being. (Well, not anyone other than my sister. But she's three years older than me so she didn't have that much power to be the grown-up that I needed in my life. She tried though.) 

I learned a few things from that upbringing... Resilience. Heck, look it up in the dictionary and you just might find the biography of Alicia Harper. Faith. I had to trust in God to get me through those years of hell. (He never said the weapon wouldn't form; He said it wouldn't prosper -- Isaiah 54:17). Optimism. I needed to look forward to a better tomorrow in order to make it through my today. Love. Kindness. Joy. Hard work. Independence. Drive. And a slew of other qualities that makes me the Mommy Delicious that I am today.

For that, I'm thankful.

I managed to get a full scholarship to a great university and I truly looked forward to the life that I'd create as a grown-up, which, I proclaimed, would be nothing like the one I had growing up.  

Fast forward a few years to my first serious adult relationship. Aiden's otherparent. After enduring emotional, financial, and physical abuse, we all know how that one ended -- not good. I still suffer from PTSD and have flashbacks of those incidents from time to time -- it's not easy to get through that kind of trauma. I went through a year of therapy after that and it really helped me to pick up the pieces of my life, learn some hard and heavy lessons, and move forward.

Resilience, at its finest. 

What's crazy and freaky and mind-blowing is the way the cycle of events works. I left the drama of my upbringing only to create it once again in my adult life. And I barely escaped it in my adult-life. 

See what I'm talking about when I say I need therapy? More therapy?  

I guess we have a tendency to gravitate towards things that are familiar to us. There's comfort in that, even if it's unhealthy. 

The thing about the horrific events that have taken place in my life is, while they've helped me to learn so much about the great things about life, they've left me shattered. And guarded.

Extremely guarded. Abnormally guarded.

The scars of my past have made me very protective of my thoughts and feelings and situations in my life, and I don't know how to share them with others. (Except for when it comes to writing. I can put it all out there in an article or blog post.)  

Enter The Guy. He's nice and sweet and smart and handsome and honest and comes from a good family and wants to build something with me. He's the guy I've been praying for! 

During the cocktail therapy session with my girls (hey, it's cheaper than a regular therapy session), I went on and on and on about my guardedness. (Is that even a word?) I've been guarded for so long, not really letting anyone in my heart for so long, maintaining these superficially relationships with folks that I genuinely care about for so long.

Sigh.  

I'm finally at a point in my life where I don't have to be this way anymore... and I don't know how not to be this way. Here I have this perfectly good (and good-to-me and good-for-me) guy who just wants to love me and like me and go at this thing together... and I don't know how to let him. I want to be successful at this, but I, must admit, I don't know how to do this. (My Type-A personality is not okay with this, by the way.)

He's been patient, I guess. But we're at the point where he's starting to think that I'm hiding things from him. But I'm not. Not intentionally anyhow. I genuinely don't find it necessary to share certain things with him. 

He's all like, "But... we're trying to build something together, why wouldn't you think to tell me about that?"

And I'm all like, "Uh... uh... I need more time to process your question and formulate a response."

I don't think that's gonna work for much longer though.

I take another sip of my lychee martini and I spill it all out to my girls. They sit there and listen to me, order more martinis with me, wallow when necessary, validate my feelings, and lean in for hugs when I need them. Then they give it to me straight and tell me that, yes, I do in fact need to speak with a therapist about my guardedness (It is a word. I'm proclaiming it.) 

Gotta love girl talk.

{This post was first published on Mommy Delicious on October 27, 2013. And it's about HEB. We're coming up on six years in this relationship thing.}

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

On Recognizing Kids As Fully Human

This meme knows my life.

Real talk: I'm not a morning person. Matter of fact, most mornings I'm cranky as hell. 

Also, I'm cranky when I don't get enough sleep. Or when I'm home and want to take a nap, but can't. Or when someone in my house wakes me up from a nap. Or when I'm hungry. Hangry. 

Or when I think things are stupid, but I have to do them anyway. (That makes me really cranky.)

And you know what? 

Because I'm grown, I get to "get away" with being cranky for the most part. (I mean, I don't walk around with an attitude or anything, but if folks know that I'm not in a good mood, they tend to leave me alone. Or hold the space for me as I work through my feelings.)

Here's the thing though: that's not the norm for our kids. Generally kids aren't offered that same level of grace. If kids are having a rough day or a rough moment, it's seen as disrespectful or unacceptable. 

In fact, I've found that so much of motherhood (Black motherhood) has been folks looking at me to prove to them that I have control over my kids.

But motherhood has taught me to accept my children as fully human. And that means holding the space for them to experience the gamut of human emotions. 

The other day, Aiden was super moody as I was helping him with his homework. Actually, he walked into the house in a funk, went to his room, sat on his bed for a few minutes, and then came out into the living room. When I asked him if he wanted to talk about his day, he declined. 

That's cool. 

But I told him that I'm here for him if he wanted to talk about anything. I left the space for him to just... be.

While we were going over his homework, he was snappy. I checked him when he tried to direct his energy towards me. I told him that he's allowed to be in a bad mood, but he's not allowed to speak to me any 'ol way. 

I asked him if he wanted a hug, he declined. 

That's cool. 

Again, I told him that I'm here for him. And we continued with his history assignment. 

Ten minutes later, he wanted a hug. So we did that. And I could feel the release as we embraced. 

The thing is: I could have easily yelled at him or sent him to his room for being "rude" or grounded him or took away his phone for his behavior. I could have easily seen his behavior as unacceptable.

But I didn't.

Because kids are allowed to be cranky. And because kids are allowed to be in a funk. And because kids are allowed to be in a bad mood. Just as much as adults are allowed. And it's my job to help Aiden navigate and make sense of these tricky feelings instead of punishing him for them. 

And that's what I'll continue to do. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Special



August has an Autism diagnosis.

There. I said it. 

Out loud.

(Wrote it. Online.)

It actually feels like a relief to write it here because now I can normalize it in public.

Whew!


By the time he turned 1 ½, I had a hunch that there was something special about August. I've written about it on the Mommy Delicious Facebook page before. I’d been reading books to him, speaking to him, and doing all the activities that I did with Aiden with him… but he didn’t respond in the same way.

His speech and language were not like Aiden’s were at the same age. (But then again, I thought Aiden was a baby genius because he and I were having full blown conversations by the time the kid was 18 months.)

I remember thinking that I made it too easy for August not to use his words because I accepted him pointing to objects or using two-word phrases to communicate his needs.

I remember thinking that I needed to read more books to him or do more activities with him in order to develop his speech.

Then I remember thinking that I just needed to chill and not compare him to his older brother.

All of these things were true.

So I did my due diligence, did all the things I said I’d do to “catch him up,” and waited it out. Then I noticed that he started to play with his toys in a way that was… interesting. He’d twirl a string for hours on end, he’d look at his toy cars and buses and trucks on an angle to watch the wheels go round and round. And he’d fixate.

Real talk: his fixation game is strong. 

By the time he turned 2 ½, August could identify every letter of the alphabet (both lower case and upper case, both in order and out of order), say the sound associated with each letter, identify every number from 0-20, count from 1-20, count backwards from 10-1, label shapes (including things like "hexagons." I mean, what 2-year-old calls something a hexagon?!), and recite entire books like it’s nobody’s business.

All of this was very… interesting.


So HEB and I agreed to get him evaluated. 

I learned that the process could be long and draining and sometimes frustrating. 

Aight, bet... I just had to brace myself for a battle. 

I also learned that on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), you need to score at least a 30 in order to receive the Autism diagnosis and get the services. 

Aight, bet. 

So when the Psychologist came to evaluate him, I emphasized all of his symptoms and pushed for him to receive the diagnosis so that he can also receive the services. He got a rating of 30.5. When the Speech Therapist came to evaluate him, I pushed for him to receive that service even though he is maniacal about labeling objects and knows a lot of words. When the Social Worker came to evaluate him, I pushed for her to get an Occupational Therapist out to my house asap because I knew he was very sensory-seeking and I needed the guidance of a professional.

Throughout the entire process, I realized that I didn’t need to “catch him up.” I just need to embrace his dopeness, love on his special-ness, and get him the services that he needs in order to thrive.

Through Early Intervention, August qualified for 20 hours of ABA therapy each week, speech therapy 3x/week, and OT 3x/week.

Now that he’s 3-years-old, we have to go through the entire evaluation process all over again in order to get him the same services as a preschooler. So I’m bracing myself for another battle.

But this time I feel more confident because no matter what happens, know this: August will be okay. Better than okay.

Because I’m his mother and I’ll make sure of it. I’ve fought for Aiden to have everything he needs to be happy andsuccessful.

And I’ll do the same for August. Always. All the days.

Rest ya understanding on that.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

There's No Easy Phase of Parenting


I remember when Aiden was younger and I had to do everything for him. Feed him, bathe him, change his diaper, entertain him... you get the drift.

There were days that I was so exhausted that I couldn't wait until he got older. To me, Aiden getting older meant that he would be able to do so many things for himself.

And parenting would become easier.

Well, guess what?

Aiden is older now. Homeboy's eleven.

He's much more independent than he used to be. Matter of fact, Aiden manages his football schedule, he takes the subway to and from school by himself, he stays home alone for a couple of hours when I need to run an errand, and he's very efficient when helping with August.

But guess what?

Parenting did not become easier.

Because when Aiden forgets to text when he gets to school or gets home from school, I have a little mini-freak out. When Aiden gets all pre-teenagery and hormonal, I have to work extra hard to practice patience and understanding. When Aiden forgets a homework assignment or forgets to study for a test, after feeling a little bit of rage on the inside, I have to take deep breaths and get him back on track.

(Side note: Middle school ain't for the wimps. When did it become so hard with so many subjects and so many assignments from every... single... subject?)

I have to constantly talk to him about online safety and being aware of his surroundings, appropriate conversations and when to exit chat rooms, the fine line between things being funny and things being inappropriate.

How to be a leader and stand up for what's right.

Systematic racism.

Implicit bias.

How to control his impulses, especially if he's approached by police officers and/or authority figures. And especially when I'm not around.

Even though I'm preparing him for independence, in many ways, he needs me more now than he did when he was just a baby.

So, yeah... there's no easy phase of parenting.

We just have to learn as we go and hope for the best.

And always know that we're doing the best that we can.

Friday, January 18, 2019

What Nightmares Are Made Of



Seven.

That's how many times, on average, it takes a victim of intimate partner violence to leave the abuser. Seven.

Seven incidents of humiliation. Seven incidents of confusion. Seven incidents of thinking, I can't believe this happened to me. Seven incidents of self-blaming and self-loathing. Seven incidents of thinking, But maybe it'll get better if only I could love harder/be more supportive/be less demanding.

Seven.

Some victims leave long before. Some leave long after.

All are scarred for many, many years following the experience.

I know this personally.

I know because not only have I studied the statistics, but also because was a victim of domestic violence. And at the hands of Aiden's otherparent. I've written about this beforeMore than once. I know because I stayed far longer than I would have ever imagined. I know because I left after way too many incidents.

The very last incident took place in my apartment. That's when he strangled me until I passed out... three times in one night. He was mad at me for getting mad at him for taking money from me without my permission. (In the real world, we call that stealing.)

The time before that took place in my bedroom. That's when he snatched my cellphone away from me while I was in the middle of a conversation and attempted to throw it. He was mad at me for not giving him the attention he wanted.

The time before that took place in my living room. That's when he strangled me until I passed out... twice in one night. He was mad at me for getting mad at him for arguing with two random guys during our date night at a bar. After I woke up, he took my keys and cellphone so that I wouldn't call anyone or try to leave my apartment. (In the real world, we call that holding someone hostage.)

The time before that took place by the foyer in my apartment. He dragged me across the floor. I still have the scar on my shoulder from the rug burn because of it.

The time before that took place in a hotel room while we were out of town celebrating my birthday. He threw me up against the wall and then body slammed me unto the bed. He was mad at me because I wouldn't give him my hard earned money to leave me alone in a hotel room and go to a strip club during my birthday weekend celebration.

The time before that took place in the bedroom. He handcuffed me to Aiden's crib because he was jealous after I received a phone call from a male friend. (He used to be a security guard so the handcuffs were from his job. And yes, Aiden was in the crib at the time.)


When I was in high school, I remember witnessing my foster brother drag his pregnant girlfriend down a flight of stairs and punch her so hard in the face that it almost immediately swelled up. I remember talking to some of my closest friends about the incident. I remember saying, "She should leave him!" I remember judging her and her situation. I remember thinking, why is she staying with him?

Ten years later, I found myself in a similar situation. Only difference is that this time I was the victim. And this time I was the one staying.

Thing is, "she could easily leave" is such a heavy, loaded statement. It's not that easy to leave. It's not that easy to walk away. It's not that easy to break those strongholds. It's not that easy to break the chains, to break free, to face the truth.

Denial and oblivion... sometimes it really is bliss.

Truth is, I don't know why I stayed with my ex for so long. Maybe I got caught up whenever we had our honeymoon phases. (They pretty much happened after every violent episode and they confused the hell out of me. But they also gave me hope that things will get better.) Maybe I was afraid to embrace the "single mom" status. (Y'all know all the statistics, thoughts, and assumptions attached to that label.) Maybe I was in denial. (Denial and avoidance are my defense mechanisms of choice.) Maybe I was afraid of being alone. Maybe I believed that this time would be different. Maybe I thought that my love, my unconditional love, would be enough to motivate change in him.

It wasn't.

There was no change.

After a while, I came to terms with the fact that some folks are just broken beyond repair and there's nothing you could do or say that would help to "fix" them or help them deal with their mess. And some folks just don't have the capacity to empathize or feel compassion towards others. Control and power, that's all abusers want. And those honeymoon phases or those "I'm a changed person" speeches are just more ways to manipulate the situation, and exercise control and power over victims.

Call me heartless and judge as you many, but it is what it is. *Kanye shrug*

Once I was honest with myself about what was happening -- reallyhappening -- I could no longer deny that I was living in a cycle of domestic violence. And I could no longer deny that my life -- and Aiden's life -- was in danger.

I realized that my abuser did need help, and some type of change did need to happen in his life. But I also realized that that's work he needed to do on his own. Without Aiden and me around or along for the ride.

So I bowed out. Gracefully. 

*Dusts dirt off of shoulders* (That was a Jay-Z reference.) 
Looking back at that tumultuous time in my life, I know that God must've thought that I had a purpose in life because I can't even begin to fathom how I survived. But I'm so thankful for God's grace and faithfulness and protection. It's the only thing that helped me to survive and live to tell what nightmares are made of. 

I'm here. To share my story. 

I hope that it brings healing and comfort and strength to some. And understanding and compassion and clarity to others. 

So the next time you're thinking of asking the question, "Why is she staying?," remember the number seven, and then think again.

{This post was originally published on the Mommy Delicious website on 9.12.14.}

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