Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Year of the Scooter

You are not an official New York City child if you don't own a scooter. Okay maybe that was a bit of an over exaggeration but it's true! It seems like every child in the city has a scooter and last year when we moved here we had to leave several things behind in Florida and one of those things was Leilani's scooter.

Upon getting here Leilani saw all the kids scooting around on their scooters and she asked me for one. Because I was broke, in debt and unemployed there was no way I could get her one but I promised her one anyways. I saw that some stores around the house offered scooters for $15 but I literally did not have $15 to spare. I killed me to see that I went from being the mother that was always able to provide for her child, both things she wanted and needed, to the mother who didn't even have $15 to spare. It didn't help that Leilani literally asked every two months for her scooter and I kept replying not today baby.

However, I am very proud to say that a year later I was able to finally get Leilani the scooter she wants and deserves.

I got one of my paychecks in the mail and my first thought was: SCOOTER TIME! I searched online an saw that the Times Square Toys R Us had the scooters I wanted her to choose from.

I picked Leilani up from school and told her I had a surprise for her. Then we rode down to Toys R Us, we found the scooter section and I told her to pick out whichever one she wanted.

Her reaction was not the Wow! Really mommy?!? Reaction I hoped for. Instead she picked one out and simply said thank you. We went to the checkout line and the total was $40 more than I anticipated however, I swiped my card and that was probably the happiest I had ever been to spend money in my life.

We left the store and I let Leilani ride her scooter from Times Square to Central Park. The weather was great. The sun was shining and I was finally able to follow through on my promise!

As she struggled with balance and tried not to run over too many people she looked up at me, smiled and said your the best! I love my scooter! This is the best life ever! Look how good I'm doing!

I smiled at her and felt the same exact way.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Back to School.

Recently I have seen that a lot of teen moms are going back to school! I think it's amazing for anyone to further their education and even more so when one of my peers are doing it.

The common question that we all have when embarking on a new journey without our child is how can I make it more emotionally bareable for me and my child? This got me thinking about what I did and still do to make my time away from Leilani a bit easier. It's wasn't easy leaving her for the first time and it's still tough today however, I realized that one must get creative.

Let your child draw in your notebooks.

Leilani actually came up with this one. It started when she was younger and she would draw in my notebooks without me knowing. Then whenever I'd get to class I'd open my notebook and see a wonderful drawing she drew.
If you're like me then your school supply budget is pretty small but the overwhelming amount of positive emotions you get when you see that drawing supersedes any budget constraint and is totally worth letting your little one go Picasso on your notebook.

Draw on Their Hand

Yes, I know children shouldn't draw on themselves and as a parent we shouldn't encourage it. However, them being away from us is just as tough on them as you being away from them.

I used to draw a heart on one of Leilani's hands and a whichever figure she wanted on the other, be it a butterfly or smiley face. I used to tell her that whenever she began to miss me to look down at her hand and she would be reminded that mommy loves her, is with her and that the other figure was something that makes her happy so she shouldn't be sad. There was a little backfire to this idea, she began drawing on her cousin. Which I thought was awesome because it was karma for my sister drawing on me when I was younger, but she, my sister, used a Sharpie!

Lunch box Message

The first time I packed Leilani a lunch I grabbed a Sharpie and wrote "Mommy Loves Leilani" on the inside flap of her lunch box. She didn't know I wrote it and saw it when she opened her lunch box at lunchtime that day. When she got home she asked me why I did that I told her I did it because I love her and asked is she was okay with it. She said she was okay with it and walk away.
I'm not sure if this one helps her more than me or vis versa. However, in my romanticized thoughts I picture her opening her lunch box seeing the note and smiling. If this really happens... I don't know.

Remember school is an amazing accomplishment and it can get tough.
However, being able to attend your child's games/plays/ recitals will be totally worth it in the future when you are able to put them in these programs with your degree salary rate.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Meet Candis

I found Candis's blog, Letting You where she blogs about being a former teen mom to to her pre-teen daughter and found it it great that there was a former Teen Mom blogging about her experiences in life. I contacted her about doing an interview and she AGREED!  I also found out that Candis has her own non-profit organization The Teen that connects Teen Moms to scholarships.
The amount that she has accomplished in life in such a short amount of time is VERY encouraging!

Briefly introduce yourself.
My name is Candis, I’m 30 years old, I have lived in Chicago for most of my life and I have one daughter who is turning 13 in June. I found out I was pregnant in my last year of high school at the age of 16 and had her two weeks after graduation.
Currently I work as an administrator for a construction management company in Chicago. I am also working on opening an online boutique for tweens, As my daughter got older, I coined the term ‘Too old for play dates, but too young for pumps!" I want the boutique to be a place where they can get appropriate and fashionable things for themselves.

What was it like getting pregnant in your teen years during your generation? How did people in your community react? Parents? 

Being a teen mom in my generation, for me, was a few things but 'mess' and 'rough' are probably the best ways to sum it up. At the time there were not too many resources for teen moms. I felt alone but there were 3 other girls that were also teen moms in my school, so we just banded together. I actually got a great friendship out of it with one of the girls and now my daughter & her daughter are like sisters!

My relationship with my friends became weird. I wouldn’t say that they ousted me, but it felt that way. They were shopping for prom and I was shopping for cribs! Because people started treating me differently I felt like I had to over compensate for my “shortcomings” by doing exceptionally well in school. The most criticism I received was from my church and my family. When I started seeing how quickly people will turn on you, I began to build resilience and even wrote a blog post about that too!

How did you tell your parents?

Candis and daughter Drew
(laughing) I didn’t realize there was a possibility I was pregnant, my mom did. She noticed that there were more sanitary napkins than there should have been. One night I was nauseous and in bed when she walked in, sat down next to me and said, “Candis… could you be pregnant?” I responded, “I don’t know.” (That was the moment she learned I was having sex). She made a doctor’s appointment and when he came back with the results, everything went slow motion. I could hear my heart beat when the doctor told us I was pregnant.

That sounds heavy! What was your mother’s reaction?
After she got over her emotions she told me that her expectations for me would not change. She was not going to let me use my pregnancy as a crutch.

Going forward In life how do you feel being a teen mom prepared you for the challenges your faced?

As a teen mom you go through so much at such an early age. It’s like taking college courses in high school. If you want to survive you must learn how to deal with life. You have no choice you have to do it. It shaped the way I deal with a lot of crap. I don’t let things get to me like I used to and you learn to identify what is worth your energy. Basically, you get a crash course in life!

You have accomplished a great deal in life how did you not allow having a child in your teens defer you?

I knew what I wanted to accomplish before I became pregnant and there was no reason why I couldn’t do it after having my daughter. I went off to a 4-year university as planned but ended up transferring and going to two others. I was the sole provider for my family so all through school I worked. Upon graduation I took a year off, worked, and then went back to grad school. My mother was gracious enough to watch my daughter for a year. She stayed in my apartment with my daughter and we made a plan. I had one year, once the year was up it was up and I would have to figure out another game plan. I knew I had to make the best use of time.

I finished my Grad studies in 3 semesters! I graduated with a Masters in Public Administration.  

What have you done or will you do to ensure that your daughter is not a teen parent?

I want to be candid with her about her body and her body’s cycle. I don’t want to sugar coat anything but I won't be too explicit. I want to have a daughter-mother relationship before anything but I want us to have a friendly relationship.
One night we were having our crunk night (dance party) and she said “ You know mom, I know you were a young mom and all but we didn’t do too bad. I mean look at us now.” I turned off the music and explained to her that what I’ve been through and go through is a big deal and she may not always see it because I shield her from it. I’m glad I succeeded but I don’t want her to take being a teen mom as an easy feat.

What has been your greatest accomplishment?

Purchasing my first home and providing a solid space for my child. Also bringing normalcy, the stigma of being a teen mom is not weighing heavily on us. I don’t feel like a teen mom. I’ve made daughter, my mother and myself proud.

Another big one was being able to FORGIVE people that shunned me. Family!

How do you maintain being a mother and an individual? When did that happen for you?

Haven’t been able to get there. I actually wrote a post that really answers your question -Finding the I in Me. So much of who I am rests on me being a mother and wife. I became her mom, the teen mom, I have had to sacrifice the me for getting a better life for us.
She’s getting older now and she doesn’t need me as much, but we both struggle with the idea of me doing things with out her or me doing things, simplify for me.

As Tactful as a Simba

The other day I learned something very important about myself, I am not a tactful person! At all!

One of my sisters came to me and told me some news/plans she has about life. Now I'm pretty sure I was the only person she told this too and she did so because she probably felt I would be the one to handle it the best.
To put it mildly I didn't react the best way. In fact I laughed, scoffed and then after we hung up I kind of texted her like crazy about how I disagreed and then proceeded to pepper in jabs about how I didn't agree with every other text. Mind you I did all of this in maybe a 36 hour time frame!

Horrible! Terrible! Rude! And tactless!

I have always said that when Leilani gets older I want her to feel like she can come to me and tell and ask me anything. Well if I react to her in the same way I reacted to my sister she'll never tell me anything again! My actions could mean the end of all of the future conversations Leilani and I could have about personal things going on in her life.

The incident with my sister showed me that I am tactless and more importantly, if I can't react correctly when one of my sisters, who is an adult and we confide in one another, comes to me with news how the hell do I expect to do it with a sensitive future Leilani in her pre-teen and teen years?

I have since apologized to my sister and unfortunately know that it will probably be a while before she tells me anything else. That really breaks my heart.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Your Friends are Their Friends

Last week I was invited to a dinner party with a group of friends. They informed me that the dinner party was on Friday evening.
Friday is also my tango lesson night and I didn't have a sitter for either.

I told my friend that I wasnt sure if I would be able to go because I didn't have a sitter to which he replied, "bring her!" Everyone else that was around us said to bring her as well.

When it comes to Leilani, I am a bit wary with bringing just anyone around her but then I had a huge revilation. I should only be friends with people that I would want my daughter to be around. If I was to be friends with the "wrong" group of people than those people not only influence the way I am they will also on any occasion be introduced to Leilani. You shouldn't have anyone in your life that you would not want in your child's life as well.

Upon getting to the resturant Leilani was introduce to a few of my friends and as the night progressed she was introduced to more and more.  Everyone kept saying that they couldn't believe how social and outgoing she was and how she just seemed to "click" with everyone.

The night was fun and it didn't feel weird or strange to have Leilani around my friends because they are the type of people I would want her around.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Food Stamps

The cost of living in the city is REALLY catching up to me. Mind you I have more than a few hundred dollars in credit card debt that I have "forgotten about" because there is no way for me to pay it off.

I just started working and to put it nicely what I get paid and the hours I work are MODEST. Just about all of my two week pay check goes directly to unlimited metro cards and the sitter that picks Leilani up for me so I can stay in school late for my classes. Although I have applied for child support over a year ago, I still get NONE. In fact all I get is letters in the mail asking me if I still want child support...?(that's a WHOLE other post). 

To be honest I have been fighting the reality of applying for food stamps lately primarily for all the stigma that is attached to being on food stamps. However, after about a year of my family telling me I NEED food stamps and me finally accepting it I went down to the food stamp office for information. I walked in and to my surprise they really were not that busy, I approached the desk attendant and asked what I had to do to get on food stamps. She told me to come back early in the morning tomorrow (Saturday) with all of the necessary paper work and that I would get food stamps.

I couldn't believe they were open on Saturday, which means no need to miss class or work, and that it was that simple. The next morning I woke up bright and early got Leilani and myself dressed and got to the food stamp office in time to wait in line to be one of the first people allowed inside.
To make a long story short:

I waited for two hours, got called back to speak to the lady who signs people up for food stamps and was told that I couldn't apply. I couldn't believe my ears! I asked her why and she told me that I was too young to apply on my own... really?! After some more bogus rules she explained to me, I had no choice but to realize I wasn't going to get food stamps. She told me that when I turn 22 I can come back and apply by myself. I couldn't believe my ears. The combination of exhaustion, defeat and just pure disappointment gave me the horrible lump in your throat feeling that we all get when we just want to break down in tears. I looked at the lady, who I'm sure goes through this often, and she just kept her eyes on her computer screen, then I looked over at Leilani sitting in the corner and fought every emotion in my heart and body that told me to cry.

I had finally swallowed my pride went down there and still got rejected. To be honest these were the thoughts that were going through my head,

  1. This is BULL SHIT!
  2. I have no "extra" money for food let alone money to get Leilani things that she wants/ needs at times.
  3. I have been trying to get some type of child support out of her father for over a year with and without the states help. To know that he is working, making good money and going on with life like a 14 year old with out a care boils my blood. 
  4. Although I'm blessed enough to be able to feed Leilani and myself, food stamps would help out so much! 
  5. If a single mom, in school, with a minimum job and no help from the NCP can't get food stamps then who the hell can?!
When I got home, I climbed under the covers and silently cried. I honestly felt very defeated! Then I  came back to reality, although I wasn't able to get food stamps Leilani and I are doing great! I may not have enough money to really make ends meet but I have the love and support of friends and family that are here for the both of us. I kept reminding myself of all of the blessings and love that I am surrounded by and fell asleep. 

The fact that I didn't/ can't get food stamps still kind of bugs me but hey it is what it is. All I can do is use this episode as motivation. I know what I want in life, I just need to keep working harder.*

*I don't need to "just work harder" I need livable wages and assistance. 


After going back for the THIRD time I was finally approved for food stamps.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Present Time

The first week of March was really tough for me, really tough. Emotionally I was all over the place and it all started with me visiting a previous bad habit. Meticulous, mind-numbing, long turn super planning.

I was at work planning my Summer semester of school, trying to see what courses were available and how they would leave the rest of my time for Leilani, working and a possible internship. All of a sudden I was stressing about the next year of school. How would it work out? How am I going to do it? When am I going to be done? As all these questions bubbled over in my mind my anxiety began to rise and I could feel a panic attack on the horizon. I packed up my things and began making my way back home all the while having these questions weigh me down and stress me out. The whole weekend I stayed home and felt depressed. Then it got a lot worse.
I pulled out a pen and paper and mapped out the remainder of my undergraduate academic career. When I wad done, and double checked, I realized that this year is my last year of college! To many this is reason to celebrate, for me it sent me over the edge. I began looking at my life in retrospect and decided that, in short, I was a loser. I hadn't accomplished everything that I had hoped to accomplish this far in my academic career and after seeing that my life long goal of traveling abroad was financially unobtainable I felt like shit.

Then a combination of things happened. I spoke to my sisters, I took a deep breath, I'm still surprised I didn't reach fo wine, and asked myself one question: how the hell did get in this position? How did I allow the planning of my Summer semester to turn into planning a year and then a negative retrospection of my life?

My answer: I was trying to control and plan the future. An intangible aspect of life that I have already learned time and time again that will work out how it is ment to regardless of my planning.

In that moment I learned rule number one of time management:

You can only plan present time.

I'm not saying not to plan for the future what I am saying is don't try to control the future.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Time Management March

February was a great month for me however, towards the end I started feeling very depressed and down on and about myself. I felt like I wasn't meeting my goals and deadlines like I wished I was. I wasnt spending enough time with Leilani and just all over the place. I also realized that my room doesn't feel like my own space and I always feel rushed and like I'm constantly playing catch up with myself. Then I woke up with a horrible severe pain on the right side of my mouth this was the icing on the horrible bitter cake I has been eating.

I texted my sister that I though I was depressed and instead of going straight to the train station after dropping Leilani off at school I went back home and sat on my bed. As I looked around I realized I didn't feel comfortable or peaceful in my room so I decided to just get ready and go to school.
Throughout the day my sister and I texted back and forth and somewhere in the middle of our text I had an epiphany. I need to desperately work on TIME MANAGEMENT. I was certain that once I figured out my time I everything else would fall right into place.
The first thing I had to do was tackle my dirty and cluttered room. I started cleaning out my closet, throwing away things, moving my father's stuff out of my room and rearranged a little.
Then Leilani asked if she could play at a friend's house and as I was walking her there I saw something I have been wanting for a very long time! A DESK and it WAS FREE!

I raced back home and have even more motivation to clean and straighten up my room, MY DESK!

The theme for this month is time management. I need to organize myself more and the first step to that is organizing my surroundings.
Throughout the month I will be sharing tips about how I am learning and using time management and sharing my process to getting a functional and tranquil room.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Uggs or Oggs?

This past Christmas Leilani and I made her annual wish list. Since she is getting older and developing her own personality I decided to let her make her list all by herself with out mommy's input.

After asking for a "laptop with an apple on it," yeah she actaully asked for a NEW MAC laptop, she already has one... my dad gave it to her, It's old though, like super old... But yeah, the fact that my five year old has a Mac is pretty ridiculous. I digress.

Leilani specifiacally asked for, "light brown boots with the white fur on them." I knew exactly what she was asking for, UGG boots. Now I don't have UGG boot money and specifiacally around the holidays so I knew she wasnt going to get them.

I sent the list out to our family and they reacted the same way I did about the laptop and then they all agreed they were going to get her the boots she wanted. I told them not to worry about it and to pay more attention to the rest of the list.
Christmas came and left and no UGG boots were opened. Then a few days after Christmas Leilani, Damien, my sister and I were in Old Navy and Leilani saw a pair of boots that fit her described christmas boots to a T. I looked at the boots saw they were on sale but didn't want to get then because they were "knock-off UGGs." However, Leilani really wanted them and I agreed to let her have them.

She now wears her boots proudly and I realized something very important.
It's not children that make a big deal about labels, it's us! The parents that allow all of this marketing and advertising stuff mold the way we think and how we buy ANY AND EVERYTHING!

Sure SOMETIMES a product is better than another and usually this products have a well developed brand name BUT more money doesn't always mean more quality.

Leilani doesn't know that the boots she perfectly described and wanted were $100 UGG boots and that the $15 Old Navy boots weren't UGGs. All she knows is she got her "cut brown boots with the fur on them." She's perfectly happy with them.
As Leilani gets older I'll let her start picking some brand name items but I hope to not let her get to the point where she looks like a billboard for a brand!
We all want the best for our child and often times we want the best shirt or sneakers but the money saved from not buying those items could be put toward something better like swim classes or a trip to the book store, while building individuality from a young age.
Let's face it all of our kids are awesome but when they all start to dress the same they may no longer see how awesome they are because everyone else looks/ dresses just like them.