Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Single Parents Are Families!

Like many people I thought I would be together with the person I had a child with forever. We had a baby together, loved each other, had a place together, and large family get togethers whenever the opportunity called for it.

But we didn't stay together forever.

Then somewhere along the process from "couples parenting" and single motherhood I felt that Leilani and I weren't a "real" family. I felt the fact that her father wasn't present meant we weren't a "real" family because "real" families have two parents but now I realize that's a bunch of crap.

Families are families regardless of structure!

I am a family with a global support system. Her father may not be around as much as i'd like but the overwhelming amount of love, support, and encouragement we get from friends and family near and far is priceless to us.
Single parents are not just single parents we are families. Our child and ourselves are a family. It has taken me a long time but I finally realize, know, and celebrate the fact that Leilani and I ARE a family!
We love, support, encourage, help, and respect one another.
We have dreams and goals we are working on together.

We are a family!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tattoos and Back to School

Sometimes I wish I less responsible. Although I say, I don't really mean it...

One of the things I really want to do in Florida while I'm here is get a tattoo. I've been wanting one for a LONG time but good tattoos cost good money, something I don't technically really have.

I have money in the bank and I know I have money coming in so getting a tattoo wouldn't technically be irresponsible but back to school season for the both of us is fast approaching. Which means Leilani needs uniforms for school, more school supplies, I need to find and pay a part time nanny because I'm going to be in school basically all day this semester, and I need school stuff too.

While I CAN get the tattoo because I have the money, I KNOW that I really shouldn't right now because I have the money and need it for REAL important things.

Honestly, if I did get the tattoo but ended up needing the money for a textbook I would accurately feel like a boob. So to avoid all of that possibly happening I'm not going to get that tattoo because really... it's just a tattoo, it can and will wait.

If I don't buy myself a very much needed new pair of shoes there is no way I'm going to spend at LEAST $100 on a tattoo. That's just nuts!

Aaahhh! Being responsible is awesome and sucks at the same time. LOL.

When was the most recent time you had to NOT do something you REALLY wanted to do because of an important responsibility?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Reconnecting With My Past- Family

I have a big family.
To put it more specifically I have a BIG disconnected and dysfunctional family.

My family lives all around the United States which doesn't enable me to give Leilani the family she wants. Couple that with my abrupt departure from Florida to New York City, years of less than great relationships, and my ability to completely disconnect from people and not feel sad or bad for doing so; the result is me not actively connecting or not wanting to connect with some people in my family.

To completely sum up YEARS of mess, I haven't spoken to:
  • my grandmother and grandfather
  • my mother, her husband, and his family
  • most of Leilani's father's family
  • and just about anyone that is family in Florida
for a little over 3 years, which means Leilani hasn't either.

Some of these people wronged Leilani and myself HORRIBLY (some were just left 'behind' when we moved) so I never wanted to speak to them again. I was completely okay with that decision, I was comfortable with my decision, I didn't ever think I would change my decision...but I have.

Leilani had been asking about my mother for sometime.
I would answer her questions as best as I could or brush them off when I didn't feel like answering them at that moment. Those two options worked but then her questions came more frequently and my half answers were no longer doing the trick.

At about the same time my step mother abruptly lost both her stepson and her brother to untimely deaths. While I was on the phone with her offering my condolences and listening to the hurt in her voice I felt my ice heart melt a bit.

I realized that although I dislike, distrust, or dis whatever else some of the people in my family... they're still my family and as an adult I control the type of relationships my small family will have with them. There is A LOT of love for Leilani and I within this large disconnected and dysfunctional family and it's my job as a parent and human to create a space where the love can be exchanged in a healthy way.

After more than 3 years Leilani re-met her grandmother, great-grandmother, and her grandma's husband.

As we laid in bed that night talking about our day Leilani hugged me and said "I'm so glad I was able to meet my great-grandma and grandma. Thank you mommy."

I'm working on being cautiously welcoming of this side of our family but in the meantime I am happy Leilani is happy with the process.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"That's the Kind of Mom I Want"

The other day we were watching television and Leilani turns around, looks at me and says: "That's the kind of mom I want. One that will play with me."

I was shocked and hurt! Already? I thought these types of comments would come during her teenage years not at 7! She waited for me to reply but as you can imagine I didn't have much to say... I was hurt.

At the moment Leilani turned around and said that to me the television displayed a parent and child playing dolls with one another. I admit I don't do that much... well... really ever but I didn't think it was such a big of an offense to desire another mom.

Now I'm trying to figure out how to play dolls with her so she wants me. A bit dramatic I know but I mean... seriously!

I've tried playing dolls with her but she has a strange way of playing.

She literally tells me how to play, what to make my doll say, when to say it, how to say it, and the list goes on and on. I don't know if I'm too old school or what but... that ain't fun! LOL. Oh, and the game always goes from 0-gajillion on the drama scale in no time.

While I'm busy being a monkey in the Rain Forest she swoops in and starts yelling about how terrible a monkey my monkey is because he drowned someone and then when I reply she tells me I replied wrong...
How is that fun?

I've talked to her about being less controlling of other people's imaginations- which kind of worked. However, I also think that I should just loosen up a bit and go along with her overtly dramatic and planned out game of dolls.

Really I have no idea what to do. 

Someone help! How do I play dolls with my child!? 

Monday, July 22, 2013

NYC Teen Parents Conference Photos

The conference was a HIT! There was an overwhelming amount of support and help to make the day amazing and great for everyone. Council Woman Palma's keynote address was very honest, inspiring, and empowering for everyone in the room.

Everyone had high remarks for the Mental Health and Wellness Workshop by JAIA YOUth Empowerment, the Sexual Health, Wellness, and Safe Pleasure workshop facilitated by Adjoa Tetteh had some great talking points and so much GREAT information, and the Advocacy workshop by National Latinas Institute for Reproductive Health provided a short intro to the importance of advocacy for themselves and their families.

Awesome NLIRH Young Mom Advocate Leydi and former teen mom, and co-creator of Young Urban Moms, Carolina Pichardo  
Showing supporting for #NoTeenShame 
One of the many ADORABLE children who attended with their family! 
Head over to Teen Mom NYC's Facebook page to check out the photos from the #NoStigmaNoShame Supporting and Empowering Teenage Families conference!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Teen Mom NYC and other young moms around the web!

Life is a bit of a whirlwind right now. 

Between the No Stigma No Shame conference, debriefing from the conference, getting ready for our upcoming trip to Orlando, Fl, and trying to make sure everything is in place and all my obligations are taken care of before going on vacation I have been going a bit bonkers. 

While I take the time to upload photos and videos from the conference and the packing woes i'm going through right now-trying to fit both our things into a carry on AND pack her telescope- I invite you to check out some other great teen and or young mom blogs online and some interviews I have done recently. 

Let me know what you think! 

Check out:
All of Early Mama and all the great content on there. As well as my interview where I talk about why and what our big move from Florida to Orlando was like. 

The Young Mommy Life is one of my many sheros check out her list of things we need to make sure young moms can do by 2033.

Alexandra Elizabeth and her adventures in co-parenting. 

and last but not lease my MommyNoire interview where I discuss why at 23 I still identify as a teen mom. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pregnant and Parenting Teens Deserve to be Happy about Parenthood

While its easy to remember all the people who doubted you or tried to or did break you down its more important and worthy to remember the people who helped you. 

Yesterday while Natasha-an other fierce teen/young mama advocate- and I were on twitter as part of the #noteenshame campaign I tweeted something that I know I'll always remember but I'll admit isn't always on my mind. 

When I was 15 and pregnant everyone was telling me and making me feel like I should be more ashamed than I already felt, to not show any happiness about my pregnancy, and keep my head and pride to an all time low. 

I sat there on the cold patient's table with my paper robe exposing my bare back to the cold that engulfed the room-and my heart- feeling low and sunken. 

"You don't know how far down you've fallen," these words ringed in my ears on repeat when all of a sudden they were interrupted by a bright smile and equally as bright:
"Congratulations! This is a magical moment in your life, enjoy it."

I sat there dumbfounded, slowly picked my head up, and saw the nurse whom- out of shame- I avoided making eye contact with and replied with a confused and quiet: thank you. 

She left the room and the cold I felt in my chest felt a little warmer, my head was held a little higher, and now her words repeated in my ears. 

Years would pass before I truly and fully understood and appreciate her humane and kind gesture.
What this nurse-and another one at my allergist-did with that simple sentence was create a moment and a space where I could be proud and happy about my pregnancy. 

To this day and as I write this I become emotional reliving the memory in my heart. 

I urge you to remember the POSITIVE things people have done for you as you move forward in life. I also urge you to walk with kindness and love in your heart and to offer kindness and love to all. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

5 Ways to Have Everyday Fun for Yourself for Little to NO Money

In an unnoticed effort on my part to have fun by myself I started doing normal everyday things. 

The first thing I did was go out to lunch with a friend. We talked about life, politics, people, paid the bill, said good bye and went on with our day. 
Later I went to a free fitness class and enjoyed myself. 

A few days later I visited one of my friends at the bar she works, met some other friends and then we went out to a night club. At the club we danced all night long which is when I also realized I was a bit of a better dancer than I thought, then afterwards we went to get breakfast food at a nearby diner. 

Monday I went to out to eat with my friend at a vegan restaurant we both enjoy. 

While being a mother is my primary job in life it's not my only one and doing things by myself and for myself are perfectly fine and healthy. 

5 Ways to have everyday fun for yourself for little to NO money

  • Do lunch with a friend: Lunch specials can be SUPER cheap, much cheaper than dinner, and since it's the middle of the day and you have to return to work you wont stay longer and spend more money. Lunch with my friends usually cost us both $10-15 with tip included
  • Go to a FREE fitness class: Check with you local community centers and smaller owned businesses usually have free classes to offer. If you're in NYC check out this link. 
  • If you're going to go out at night look for bars that have super good drink specials and FREE entry to lounges, poetry clubs, or dance clubs. (The club my friends and I went to afterwards was FREE!) 
  • Check a matinee: Movies in the middle of the day are MUCH cheaper than films after 12pm. Check your theaters matinee times and go see a movie! Also look for dollar movie theaters! The kids and I LOVED going to the dollar theater when we lived in Florida.
  • Go by YOURSELF: You know all the zoos, libraries, and museums you go to with your little one? I can't tell you how great a trip to one of these places by yourself is! You can learn more, go as slow or as fast as you want, and these places aren't just for kids! Check out FREE museums in NYC
If you can't remember the last time you did something just for YOU maybe it's time to do it! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Let Your Child Have a Bad Day

As adults we all have bad/off days and moments right? 
Now ask yourself how often do you allow your child to have a bad/off day like you? 

I've come to realize that just like adults children have and should be entitled to having a "bad" day. A day where they can be a bit cranky, not listen even after you repeat something over and over again, and basically just don't really feel like having a smile and positive attitude all the time. 

The other day while Leilani and I were at the zoo she slipped into a bit of a funk. I tried to get her out if it by joking and playing around with her. when that wouldn't work I started to feel like she didn't appreciate that we were at the zoo and having fun, and then I started asking her over and over again what was wrong to which she would reply nothing to over and over again. 

I found myself getting upset with her simply because she was experiencing a different emotion than what I wanted her to be. 

When we got on the bus on the way back and finally at home I could quite literally feel her perking up and relaxing. 

Then I realized all of the other factors that I was ignoring at the zoo:

  • The exhibit we went to the zoo for was over capacity and we couldn't get in. Which disappointed her. 
  • Every other exhibit was packed so we could go to it. Which further disappointed her. 
  • She was starting to get hungry and our water bottle now held lukewarm water in it. 
  • Oh did I forget it was a blazing 93 degrees outside with no shade. 
Any adult under those circumstances would have most likely been in a funk and not really wanting to jump for joy just because someone else expected them to. Leilani sympathizes and accepts when I have bad days, the least I can do is give her the same respect she gives me.

Remember your child is a little human too and all humans are allowed to experience all range of emotions, happy, sad, disappointed, everything so let them and don't take it personal. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Good Conversation with a Good Friend Can Change Your Whole Perspective

Never underestimate the power of a good conversation. 

Yesterday I was feeling really down and small. I was having feelings of self doubt and really felt like I needed to talk to someone. I looked at my Facebook chat and saw a good friend I met in Washington D.C was online. 

I messaged them and asked them if they had a moment to chat because I really needed to talk to someone. We chatted for 30 minutes or so and the two things I really got from the conversation was: 

  • Don't underestimate the power of a conversation with a good friend. 
  • Stay in your lane has several meanings. 
Stay in your lane is simply a different way to say mind your business.

Believe it or not advocacy is extremely draining and emotional. As much as I try to not  internalize much of the work-the negative comments, people's lack of information towards things, or the very difficult moments when you realize someone you thought understood "it" really doesn't and is a victim of group thinking- I do. 

I do and it's not healthy emotionally or physically. 

From the conversation the meaning stay in your lane had become was pay attention to and respect the struggles of others but do not internalize them more than you should and you don't always have to be "on" all the time. 

In the world of advocacy to some that statement seems like a crime but to me it's  necessary and since realizing it I feel so much better. 

What good does it do me to always bombard myself with the stories of doom and gloom when it comes to human rights? Absolutely none in fact it can have an adverse affect where I feel nothing I do is worth it. 

This perspective doesn't only apply to advocacy though it applies to all things in life.

You can't be all over the place while trying to please everyone and always feel like you have to be a fierce or stereotype defying human being. Just be yourself and breathe and allow yourself to sit on the couch longer than you feel you should, or lay down in the middle of the day, or go out to eat once in a while with someone you love. Most of all be sure to take care of you!