Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Life Is Not A Dress Rehearsal

Life is not a dress rehearsal. 

You know when meet someone online and then you get to hear them speak in person and then you see them on TV and they instantly become your best friend in your head? Such was the case when I stumbled upon the amazingness that is Demetria Lucas, blogger, author, and TV personality. She always says things that have me like, "Yes! I was totally thinking that!" Such was the case when I heard her share her favorite motto: 

Life is not a dress rehearsal. 

When I push myself hard and put some really long hours in so that I could take my career to the next level and go get my dreams, this is why I do it. 

When I dream up other ways to reach my goals and come up with dope ideas that I want to see come to fruition, this is why I do it. 

When I push past the mess and stress that happens in my life so that I can do the damn thing and try to be great, this is why I do it. 

When I leave relationships that are toxic — even though it means that I'll be a single mother — this is why I do it. 

When I set some time apart for Aiden and me to do things that kids like to do and create happy memories for him, this is why I do it. 

When I give Aiden the gift of travel and perspectives of other cultures and experiences that'll hopefully last a lifetime, this is why I do it.

When I work on this communication thing that I've gotta fix in order to a have healthier — and functional! — relationship with The Guy, this is why I do it. 

When I push myself to move out of my comfort zone and do something that's gonna elevate me, this is why I do it. 

Because life is not a dress rehearsal. Yes, there's always tomorrow to fix things or another opportunity to get it right, but generally speaking, this... is... it. 

This is my life, so I'm trying to constantly make a conscious decision to do what I love. And do it often. These are the cards Aiden and I have been dealt, so I've gotta teach him how to make the best of it and how to play the heck out of it. This is the baggage that I bring to my current relationship, so I've got to do my best to be aware of that baggage and not let it affect my relationship. 

Because this is my life. And it's not a dress rehearsal. So I've just gotta do the damn thing. With no apologies. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Art of Fine Dining

An étiquette class equipped with story time. A three- course meal equipped with children's fave dishes. A cupcake decorating session equipped with all the toppings you could think of. This is just a little taste of what Aiden got to experience at The Ritz-Carlton Battery Park a few weekends ago. (Pun intended.)

I think it's so important for children to not only have good table manners, but also to understand the art of fine dining. So much so that every time Aiden and I go out to a restaurant, which happens fairly often (don't judge me!), I take the time to teach him how we're supposed to behave while dining out. Sometimes I even allow him to signal the waiter over to us to ask a question or to ask for the check. 

When it comes to getting him to speak properly and politely to the waiters in the restaurant, I'v gotten pretty successful. But when it comes to proper eating etiquette and table manner… forget about it! Your girl has not been that successful in teaching that area to Aiden. 

So when I heard that The Ritz was offering 2-hour etiquette classes on a monthly basis for children ages 5-11, I jumped at the opportunity. Once we entered the hotel, we were greeted by the hostess and escorted to a well-lit and spacious dining area. That's where we got to meet etiquette expert and author of The Extraordinary Life of Prince — Which Fork's First?, Prince Sanders. Not only was he warm and friendly, but he was also funny. Aiden immediately liked him and was excited about story time. He enjoyed the funny book,  but he also loved the fact that the author was the one reading him the story! 

After story time, it was time to eat. The children placed their own order, decided as a group where to place their napkins, decided together which fork they should use for their first course and second course, and widened their eyes in excitement when it was time for dessert. (Read: cupcake decorating.)

One of the coolest parts? Each child got a signature souvenir, which consisted of the etiquette book, a Ritz-Carlton stuffed lion, and a linen napkin with their initials embroidered. Needless to say, Aiden's been playing with his teddy and "practicing eating with Popcorn" (the name of one of the characters in the story). He's gotten pretty good at it, save for the crazy mess he makes and more food ends up on the tables than in his mouth. 

An even cooler part? Adults got their own fancy cupcake. And it was delish. Adults also got their own adult beverages. And that was even more delish. 

Needless to say, it was a pretty magical and memorable experience for the both of us. 

If you're like me and you want your littles to value experience, this is definitely one for the books! The price is $100 for one adult and one child (plus tax and tip), with $60 for each additional child. Visit The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park's website for more information about this interactive and engaging experience.

{Disclaimer: I was invited to the etiquette class in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.}

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wild Kratts Brothers Perform at The Bronx Zoo

Photo courtesy of The Bronx Zoo
If you're a lover of The Bronx Zoo like Aiden and I are, then you're in for a treat this weekend. And... if your littles are fans of the hit TV show, Wild Kratts on PBS, then you're in for a double treat this weekend. (Say what?!)

Because, this weekend, Kratt Brothers, Martin and Chris of Wild Kratts will be taking the stage to re-live a fun and mind-blowing adventure that happened to them out in the Amazon jungle! It'll be an interactive performance that'll be fun for the entire family.

This is a huge event for The Bronx Zoo, and trust me on this... you won't want to miss it!

Here are the deets for the performance:
When: July 26th and 27th
Where: Astor Court
Time: 12:00pm and 1:30pm (show will last approximately 30 minutes)

(You're welcome!)

Oh, there are certain things that you'd might want to know before you go (like arrive early because seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis), so check out The Bronx Zoo website for more information.

(Again, you're welcome!)

{Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for the Zoo Crew and this post is part of a sponsored series. All opinions expressed herein are my own.}

Monday, July 21, 2014

{Personal Style} In My White Tee

As my girl Tara says, "Maya Angelou. Chaka Khan. Ann Dunham (President Obama's mother). Aretha Franklin. All young moms, all women who have made an extraordinary mark on the world."

When I had the chance to grab my Young Moms T-shirt, I jumped at it. Because, I'm a young mom. And I'd like to think that I'm doing something extraordinary with my life and leaving my mark on the world.

I wore my t-shirt this past weekend for date night with The Guy. I paired it with denim booty shorts (which were really short), sunnies, and peep-toe booties for a fun, sexy, and summery outfit.

Dinner at one of our fave Thai restaurants in Brooklyn, a walk along the Promenade, a movie, and ice cream cones for dessert made for a super fun-filled summery date. Days like that are so special to me and leaves me feeling all warm and fuzzy, butterflies-in-my-stomach inside. So much so that I told The Guy that I wish I could just bottle that moment up and savior it. For always.

Ah... young love!

Hope you guys had a great weekend. Stay stylish!

P.S. If you love the t-shirt as much as I do and want to shout it to the rooftops that you're proud of other young mommas, go get you some!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Walking With Dinosaurs at Barclays Center

If you've got a kid remotely interested in dinosaurs or animals or live shows, then I've got a treat for you!

This week, Aiden and I attended Walking with Dinosaurs -- The Arena Spectacular at Barclays Center, a show that's thrilling, entertaining, and educational. I've said this many times on this place and space, Aiden is a huge fan of dinosaurs (particularly Stegosaurus, Allosaurus, and the amazing T-Rex), and to be able to see the show on opening night was extra special!

Excitement abounds...

The show travels back in time to 65 million years ago when dinosaurs ruled the land. While it is the narrator who takes us through the Cretaceous Period, Jurassic Period, and the Triassic Period, explaining phenomenons and interesting facts about the dinosaurs, it is the dinosaurs themselves that are the main attractions.

We hear them roar, we see them defend their young, and we watch as they fight for survival. While all of this is taking place, the lighting and special effects adds to the drama of the entire production. Needless to say, there will be times where your child will be sitting at the edge of their seat, holding their breath, and wondering what will happen next. Oh, and please believe that this behavior is not just limited to the kids at the show. I may or may not have jumped a few times during battles.

(You've been warned.)

Stegosaurus. [Photo via Walking With Dinosaurs website]
Throughout the show, the audience will also have the chance to see the immense amount of love that parent dinosaurs have for their offsprings and the incredible bond between them. We get caught up and wrapped up in the Mama T-Rex being fierce and strong while protecting her young, but sweet and tender when nurturing her baby. It's a most delicate moment in the show and also one of the sweetest moments.

Mama T-Rex and her young. [Photo via Walking With Dinosaurs website]
That being said, if you have a toddler who scares easily, you may want to get a seat that's further up in the arena. Aiden and I had seats that were practically thisclose to the front row, which was perfect for a dinosaur lover like Aiden. But I can certainly see how a smaller child would have been scared of the life-sized creatures, battles, and/or special effects.

The show is approximately 90 minutes with an additional 20 minutes for intermission, which is a perfect amount of time for trips to the bathroom or the concession stand. I also used it as a time to kinda debrief with Aiden what we just learned in the first half of the show. (Leave it up to me to make it a teachable moment. The educator in me never sleeps.)

Brachiosaurus. [Photo via Walking With Dinosaurs website]
Walking With Dinosaurs -- The Arena Spectacular runs from now until July 20th at Brooklyn's Barclays Center. The show is fun for the entire family and the perfect memory-making experience. Visit the website for more information or to purchase your tickets.

{Disclaimer: I received tickets to Walking With Dinosaurs -- The Arena Spectacular in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.}

No Apologies

This year, I'm learning more and more to work on doing the damn thing… with no apologies. Particularly at work and at this single mom thing. 

During summer months, work starts at 8:00 AM for me. Aiden's camp doesn't start until 9:00 AM, but I signed him up for the early drop-off (and late pick-up) program for a not so small fee. So I told my boss that I won't be able to come into work until at least 8:30 AM every day because I need to take my baby to camp.

I said it with no apologies.

Because I work hard and smart and I do my job well. I lead my school well and I lead my teachers well and my work doesn't suffer when and if I need to get to work a few minutes later for one reason or the next. I don't say this to toot my own horn, but I'm becoming more and more aware of what I bring to the table, of my strengths and talents. And I'm becoming more and more okay with the things that I physically cannot do because I am a single mother with a limited budget for nannies or sitters.

And I won't apologize for that. 

I'm ambitious and focused on achieving my career goals. Sometimes to a fault. When I was in grad school, I took Aiden to class with me. After grad school, when I needed to, I took him to work with me. (At times, I still do.) Now that I work long hours, he goes to school for early drop-off and stays at school for afternoon activities. Sometimes I need to get work done at home and sometimes that means that I'm unavailable to play with him as much as he'd like. Sometimes folks tell me that I'm doing too much and that his days are too long as a result of my doing too much. 

But I won't apologize for that. 

I won't apologize for being ambitious. I won't apologize for setting career goals and being aggressive in my pursuit of them.

Because I carve out meaningful time to spend with Aiden. We're always exploring New York City and attending some cool, kid-friendly event that he loves. Heck, just this month we've visited too many places to even count. We read together everyday, we study and work together so that his "brain keeps growing," as he puts it. He participates in extracurricular activities that he really enjoys, and when we can, we travel. Together. By no means am I saying that I have it all figured out as a single mother, but I'm learning to have some type of balance — to show Aiden that I can value my career and still be a present mother. 

And I won't apologize for that. 

It took me a while to get here. But I'm so glad that I'm at the place where I know what I'm worth, where I know what I'm capable of, and where I know what I can bring to the table. And I know what I physically cannot bring to the table at any given time. 

It doesn't make me less of an employee or a bad mother. It makes me human. 

And I won't stress out about that. 

And I definitely won't apologize for it. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

{Personal Style} Tanked

It's gonna be pretty hard to top the epic nature of this weekend, particularly the start of the weekend, and particularly my most recent girls night out. This weekend, my girls and I got all dolled up and headed to East Rutherford, NJ to see Jay-Z and Beyonce's On The Run show. And let me tell y'all, it was not just a show... it was an experience!

The on-stage flirting, the playful banter between them, the "movie clips" that played in between their individual numbers in which they were the main characters, the way the show flowed seamlessly, the overall badassness of it all... I loved every... single... second... of it!

And I can't even begin to explain how I got my whole entire life sitting on the floor, in row 13, center stage. Center freakin' stage! I've seen Jay-Z in concert several times before, but seeing the both of them together? Epic! Pure epicness!

I'm pretty sure Jay and I made eye contact a few times and we had a connection going on. Now all we need to do is schedule a time to hang out so we can exchange "growing up in Brooklyn" stories.

Okay. Now let's talk style. I knew I was going to be singing (screaming!) and dancing and ooh-ing and aah-ing the entire night so I wanted to keep my outfit simple, chic, and cool. With a little bit of badassness. So I wore a simple tank top that I got from Target and paired it with trendy pants, sky-high peep-toe booties, and a statement necklace.

It was simple. It was chic. It was trendy. And I feel like it was a little badass as well. Right?

I always try to teach Aiden to value experiences over things and I'm definitely happy that I got to lead by example this weekend, because this right here? Quite an experience!

Hope you all have a great week! Stay stylish!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Making The Most of Summer Staycation

I'm not gonna lie, I was a little upset when I came to terms with the fact that Aiden and I weren't going to have the opportunity to go on a vacation vacation this summer. But, since I had last week off, I decided not to be a Debby Downer, but instead to make the most of the time that I had with my baby.

We literally explored all over NYC and experienced something different every. single. day. By the end of the week, it certainly felt like we'd gone on a luxurious vacation. Right here in our beloved city.

On the first day of our staycation, we hit up the pool at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 2. It was a lot of fun and a perfect way to stay cool. For free.

The second day, we headed to the Bronx Zoo, which we haven't been to in quite some time. It was great to finally check out the Dinosaur Safari ride that's been all the rave this year!

The third day, we headed a bit north of the city to finally check out Legoland Discovery Center in Westchester. I've been meaning to take Aiden there since last year, but I never made the time. Until our staycation. And I'm so glad I did because little guy had an absolute blast building cars, racing those cars, checking out the 4D movie, playing in the laser training camp, and going on the rides. Over and over and over again!

The fourth day was pretty low-key. I had my good friend's 30th birthday celebration to attend, but earlier in the day, I grabbed lunch in the city with my homegirl. We had a good time catching up about all things love and life. I brought Aiden along and he seemed to just be happy that he didn't have to order from the kids menu. #JustSaying

For the fifth day, which was the fourth of July, we went to dinner at Dinosaur BBQ (the only way to dine out for the 4th!) and then we headed to the Brooklyn Bridge to check out the fireworks show. We got there early and was able to get a great spot, which was absolute perfection. I'm a little biased, but I definitely think it's one of the best fireworks show ever.

Peep the red, white, and blue! 
Brooklyn Bridge

What's a staycation without a day at the beach?! That's exactly where we headed on Day Six -- to Long Beach on Long Island! Sun, sand, and the sound of the ocean was all I needed to rest and relax. Apparently it was all Aiden needed for climbing on rocks, playing ball, and running from waves. A total win for the both of us!

I'm rocking my MiracleSuit swimsuit and loving it!
The last day before it was time for me to head back to work (and Aiden to start summer camp), was a chill day. I packed a picnic bag, and we headed to Pier 6 and caught the ferry to Governor's Island.

Maxi Love

I've been back at work for a couple days now and I'm already missing all the fun Aiden and I got to have on our staycation. With all the things that I have to do and all the demands of my career, sometimes it's just nice to drop everything and spend some quality time with my fave little guy. It really puts things into perspective for me and helps me remember what's really important.

I ended my week full of love and joy and peace. And completely content. With life and motherhood. And that, to me, was better than any vacation we could have taken.

Peace and love, y'all.


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