Friday, January 31, 2014

This Parenting Thing...

"I'm scared of my mom. Actually, I take that back. I'm not scared of my mom. Because my mom doesn't hit my for no reason. Because mostly it's my fault. Because I have to learn to be good all the time."
My heart broke a thousand times as I sat there next to my second grade student, while he recounted all the incidents of physical abuse to the child protective services worker. A few days prior, I noticed bruises on his face, and after speaking with him, I learned that he'd been physically harmed by his mother. Several times. Sigh.

And then I just thought of Aiden and the relationship that we're developing together…

It was afternoon. Saturday. Snowy and cold and just how we like it around the holiday season. Aiden and I were running late to the children's theater to see a show, and we were also really hungry. I guess hunger took precedence over intelligence because as we were passing a pizza shop, we somehow thought it was a good idea to grab a couple slices and drinks. To go. In the cold and the snow.

We ate our slices (more like inhaled them) as we walked over to the theater, and, by the time we got there, our fingers were frozen. We quickly downed our drinks, tossed the containers in the trash, and went into the theater. Five minutes after the show started. As we walked into the theater, we were giggling and laughing and rubbing our hands together in order to get some feeling back in our finger tips.

The moment was priceless, the afternoon was fun, and it was one that Aiden and I have been talking about whenever we reminisce.

That little guy, he's my buddy. I love the person he's turning into and I love the relationship we're developing.

That's all that I could think of as my sweet second grader sat in my office and bravely told his story to the child protective services worker — that Saturday afternoon when Aiden and I walked the snowy streets of Manhattan with pizza in our hands. We didn't care that people were looking at us like we were crazy. We didn't care that our hands were frozen and our pizza was getting snow on it. We didn't care that, in the midst of scarfing down our food,  we took a wrong turn, which made us five minutes late to the show. We just hurried and laughed and ate. It was just us two.

Yes, there are moments of frustration and disappointment. Yes, there are times when I give Aiden a time-out because I'm the one who really needs the time-out. Yes, I say things and then evaluate what I said after the fact. (Like when I say, "Aiden, you're really annoying me right. Go sit over there…" or something to that effect.)

I'm his parent. And he gets disciplined and time-outs and loss of privileges if need be. But I've built a relationship with him where he can feel safe and loved and cared for. I didn't have that when I was growing up. I, too, thought it was my fault when I was physically abused while being in foster care. And when I was pregnant with Aiden, I made it a choice to never intentionally make him feel that way.

The thing is, this parenting thing is hard, y'all. I get it. Kids are frustrating and annoying sometimes. I get that. And life makes everything that much more stressful when parenting gets hard and kids get frustrating. I haven't figured it all out yet and I probably never will.

But I'm so, so happy that I've learned to find other ways to parent Aiden that doesn't require belts and bruises and physical scares for life.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Diesel Kid Presents TEN: A Celebration of Tristin + Tyler's Birthday and a Dance Party for Kids Big Dreams!

A couple weekends ago, Aiden and I had the opportunity to party like rockstars with the coolest twins in NYC, Tristin and Tyler! We headed to Greenwich Village for an afternoon of fun and play at Fuzipop at The Pink Elephant to celebrate the duo's tenth birthday and the event, which was presented by Diesel Kids, did not disappoint. I mean, these kid reporters and TV personalities know how to throw a party!

The jam-packed celebration featured photo-ops with the twins, a glow-in-the-dark kids' dance party to the tunes of 9-year-old DJ Kai Song, several arts and crafts stations, and lots of sweet treats! Aiden enjoyed all the activities, but really, really enjoyed the sweet treats. (What can I say? The kid's got a sweet tooth… just like his momma.) I enjoyed watching Aiden have a great time, and I even had a chance the chat-it-up with a few blogging buddies, Brianne, Monica, and Tiffany.

Sponsors for the event included Kids Foot Locker, which provided gift cards for parents to pick up sneakers and sportswear that'll keep kids active, WAT-AHH!, the kids bottle water company, Babiekins Magazine, which is a kids' go-to magazine for all things trendy, and New York Family Magazine, the ultimate guide for things-to-do with your family in the big apple.

Thanks so much to Tristin and Tyler and mom Tiffany for hosting such a fun, hip, and family-friendly event! Happy tenth birthday, boys! We wish you many more years of success, health, happiness, and, of course, fashion!

{Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post. Event attendees received a gift bag, which included items from the event sponsors.}

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Who Do You Have In Your Inner Circle?

I was on Facebook the other day and came across a post from my good blogging buddy, Tara. She was talking about a chat she was about to have with another mother/blogger/writer about business plans, goals, career moves and the like. And I could feel her excitement jumping off the page.

After the call, which she referred to as, "energizing," she posted another status about being ready to work all night. (Okay, this is maybe kinda sorta bordering along the lines of "stalker-ish." But it doesn't count if she's my friend, right?)

Then I got to thinking. *Cue Carrie Bradshaw.*

It's just so important for us to have folks in our inner circle who will motivate us to be greater, push us to go further, and encourage us to just… keep... going… even when we don't feel like it. I mean, we can't achieve our goals unless we position ourselves for success and that means surrounding ourselves with the doers and the shakers and the movers of this world.

For me, that circle is a combination of my professional colleagues whom I learn from all day long, mentors who I may not see often, but stay in contact via email and they're always dropping knowledge on a sista, friends from college and grad school that I have dinner/drinks/get-togethers with and talk about everything from our career goals to dating to motherhood (For me. I do most of the talking about motherhood). And The Guy, who I'm learning to let inspire me in ways that I never thought possible.

"Go farther, go further, go harder. Is that not why we came? And if not, then why bother?" That's a Jay-Z line that I've always loved. Not only because he's talking to all of the folks listening to the record, but he's also talking to the other young artists recording the song with him. He's telling them to set goals and follow through on them, to keep pushing, to keep going, and not to stop until they've achieved success. It's a word of encouragement if there ever was one.

Get at least five people in your inner circle who will motivate you to do just that -- work at it until you reach your goal.

If you don't have any people like that, find them. Think of the person who has the career that you want or the person who you see making moves, ask them to go out for a cup of coffee. Talk with them about their career and the moves that they've made in order to get to where they are now. Can't go out for coffee? Send an email. (I get tons of emails asking me questions about my day job or my writing. And I take the time to answer all of them.) Too shy to send an email? Add them as a friend online. (Heck, that's what social media is there for, right? Sharing and networking!)

Bottom line: you need some people in your inner circle who are the movers and the shakers and to doers of this world. You need folks who will motivate and inspire you. You can't do all the motivating and inspiring because things will get rough, you will feel overwhelmed, you will feel like crying because behind the success are lots of tears and fears and stress that no one seems to talk about.

Trust me on this: you will feel like giving up and you will need someone to be there for you. To listen to you. To encourage you. And to be a breath of fresh air for you.

So much so that when you finish interacting with them, you feel ready to bring it. And do the damn thing!

Who do you have in your inner circle like this?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Still Awake, Still! at The New Victory Theater

It is morning. Aiden and I are on the train, heading to his school and we're chatting about a recent trip to the theater -- our favorite parts, the funny parts, if we'd like to see it again... everything! There is laughter. There is joy. There is learning.

To me, this is like a NYC Summer night -- bliss. I love talking about these things with Aiden and I love that he enjoys going to the theater so much and getting some culture. This is mostly because I hardly ever had the chance to go to the theater or experience the excitement of seeing a live show as a kid, save for a few times that I went to the theater on a school trip.

The New Victory Theater is hands down one of our favorite places to check out live performances. This weekend will be no different. We'll be heading to the children's theater in Times Square to see Still Awake Still! as well as participate in The New Victory Family Workshop, Story Time Sing Along.

The show is based on the awesome songs from the children's bedtime book, I'm Still Awake, Still!, by Elizabeth Honey. And if you've ever experienced the joy of a bedtime power struggle (sense the sarcasm), then you and your kids will totally relate to the book. And the show.

Still Awake Still! features Miss Ivory Tinklefinger, her grand piano, and her sweet-singing voice as she attempts to calm the rowdiest kids and get them to sleep. However, one day, her piano begins to produce more than just notes. What will ensue? I can't wait to see the show and find out!

I'm sure it'll be entertaining, funny, and engaging. But most importantly, it'll be another opportunity for Aiden and me to get some culture, create some memories, and bond over our shared love -- theater.

Still Awake Still! has been created for children ages 4-7 and is 45-minutes long with no intermission. Tickets start at just $14. Visit the website for more information about the show and to purchase tickets. And while you're at it, get the scoop on The New Victory Family Workshop. With innovative and unique workshops led by teaching artists, participants can learn fun performance skills. Aiden and I participated a few weeks ago and we're excited to go back this weekend. No performance or theater experience is necessary and it's a great way for the entire family to get moving and have some fun! 

{Disclaimer: I am being provided with tickets to Still Awake Still! in order to facilitate this promotion. All opinions expressed herein are my own.}

Monday, January 13, 2014

Walk In Your Purpose

Me: You're smart and kind and you're a good little boy. When you get to school today, I expect you to show that to [your teachers]. Even if your friends are being silly, make sure that you're following all the directions, working your hardest, and being your best. All day long. Okay?

Aiden: Yes mommy.

Me: I'm so proud of you. You're going to do great things, but it starts with you being your best.

Hugs and kisses ensued.

That was our talk this morning on the way to school. No, there's nothing particularly special going on at Aiden's school this morning. Just another Monday. And just another opportunity for me to plant seeds in his life, instill values, and let him know that I always expect him to be his best. Even when he makes a mistake. Even if others around him are not being their best. Even when it's easier to be mediocre.

Aiden has a lot to offer the world and I want him to feel confident enough to walk in his purpose at all times. So we talk about it. And I give him encouragement and permission to be great.

I try to hold myself to the same standard. I try to constantly remind myself that I have a lot to offer the world and that I cannot be selfish with my experiences or the lessons that I have learned. (That's why I continue to write and blog and share.) I try to remind myself that I should not wait for permission to be great or to wait for permission to walk in my purpose. I should just do it.

What about you? If you're waiting for permission to be great, stop! You have too many gifts to offer the world, too many stories to share, too many lessons to teach to wait.

Live the life of your dreams. Live life on purpose. And walk in your purpose.

Every. Single. Day.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Kind of Holiday -- Last Minute Gift Ideas with Target

When it comes to getting gifts for Aiden, I go all in! I purchase them long before the required date, wrap them, and prepare my mind and camera for his reaction when he opens them.

I do the same thing for my niece as well.

For other folks, eh, not so much. I must admit, more often than not, I have a tendency of procrastinating when it comes to purchasing gifts for others.

Like this past holiday season.

I didn't get a gift for Aiden's teachers, my Secret Snowflake at my job, The Guy, or my girlfriend until, uh, four days before Christmas. (Don't judge me! Okay... maybe judge a little bit.)

For The Guy it was pretty easy -- I got him a sweater with the Greek letters from his fraternity. It was sentimental and cute. He loved it.

For the rest, Target came to my rescue. (As always.)

My homegirl is the beauty maven so I checked out the e.l.f. Holiday collection, which was just $17.00 and under. She got her whole life from the nail polish, make-up palette, and brush collection. Not to mention that I got my life too. I'm all about trying out different nail colors these days.

The Secret Snowflake at my job was in luck! The staff and I were only allowed to spend $15 or less on gifts and I scored these fabulous Charisma Flutes 4-pack champagne glasses for under $11. Because, you know, a little something something is always needed after a long semester of educating little children. Happy to say that it was a huge hit!

I kept it simple for Aiden's teachers and got them a hand lotion set for $13.99. As a person who works with little kids all day in a school, I'm constantly washing my hands and constantly putting lotion on so that they stay moist. I love it when someone gets me different types of lotion, especially the calming/soothing ones so I figured this would have been a hit with his teachers.

I'm so happy I was able to run to Target to grab them last minute gift items. And if all my efforts failed, I had a great back-up plan -- the Target gift card, which always comes in handy!

What are some of your go-last minute gift ideas from Target? Share them in the comments below to be entered to win a $25 Target gift card to go shopping! Say it with me... "Woohoo!"

{Disclaimer: This post is being sponsored by Target. All opinions expressed herein are my own.}

2014 -- Let's Do It!

The last few days of every year, I usually try to reflect and take stock of the all the things that happened in the previous year -- the good, the bad, the glory.

The last few days of 2013 were no exception. I thought about all the things that took place in 2013 -- the things that made me proud, the things that made me worry, the things that made me grow.

I wrote the "best of 2013" post with all those things in mind, but, as I was writing the post, I didn't find myself excited about the post until the very end. Until I hit the publish button.

It was as if hitting the publish button symbolized that I made it through, that I survived all the things that took place in 2013.

It took me awhile to understand the depth and the meaning of that post. I mean, I know that I'm blessed and I know that I've been through a lot and I know that I've survived a lot.

I also know that 2013 was a year of tremendous growth and tremendous progress for me. But that's precisely it. That's the thing about progress -- it's messy. There are a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns. And success isn't linear. There are setbacks. Lots of them. There's a lot that happens behind the success -- there are tears and fears and moments of self-doubt. There are mountains to be climbed and battles to be won and problems to be solved.

But there's also sweet, sweet victory when you push pass the hell that you go through.

There's progress. And as messy as progress can be, it's a beautiful thing.

I have never been looking forward to a new year as I am now.


Let's do the damn thing!


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