Happy Thanksgiving 2015!

Happy Thanksgiving America and the World! Wherever you are!

I have not witness a very warm Thanksgiving Day in a long while! It was 55F degrees mid-afternoon today, and I was out in my bikers! And the sun was out, no wind; beautiful! Perfect day for a run, jog, anything outdoors! weather thanksgiving_Fotor

I couple of days back, Child Of Mine (COM) suggested that on Thanksgiving Day, we write down all the things were are thankful for. I readily agreed, and promised to obliged when the day comes – today, Thursday, November 26, 2015.
On his part, he had had an entire day of Thanksgiving celebration – making applesauce and crafts and tasting apple butter at school, and exploring Thanksgiving at home at school.

This Thanksgiving morning, I waited for him to wake up, served him breakfast, brushed our teeth, then we sat down to compile out lists.

Here is his list:
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Thankful for:

  1. Food (Me: makes sense, since we are talking after breakfast 🙂)
  2. Oxygen
  3. Water
  4. Shelter
  5. Blood – without blood we cannot live
  6. Heart – I would not be alive, if I did not have a hear
  7. My brain —it is the control system. It controls every part of my body.
  8. Bones —Bones connect the body together.
  9. Muscles —If I knew how to fight but did not have muscles, I would not be much stronger.

[Mental note to self: Uhm! Everything seems to be about him. Oh well! Just be happy he is compiling a list!]

I started my list

  1. COM —Because he has helped me understand life better. Plus, he allows me push him out of his comfort zone, ‘experiment’ on him and co-op him into my adventurous life. At his age, he is already Scouting for Food as a Cub Scout, caring for therapy dogs with Paws and Pages and donating to Toys for Totsscouting and community service_Collage
  2. My mother – She brought me into this world, and is always there for me, even when I am sad and do not feel like talking. She surprises me.
  3. For the gift of life —It is full of challenges, but it makes me stronger and optimistic.
  4. All the friends and family who give me laughter, shelter, surprises, reassurance and social support.
  5. Challenges – that teach me a lot about myself and my potentialities
  6. For the United States – it gave me Biko, my adult life, exposure to a larger world or learning and education, connectivity of humanity, and retracing my blackness through my ancestors who were shipped off as slaves many years ago.
  7. Uganda – my birthplace that nurtured me from childhood. The most fun, free and safest place I have ever lived.
  8. Social networks – the Cub Scout, Paws n Pages, where I meet new friends, learn about opportunities to participate in community activities, and my son gets to learn about life and serve his community at a young age.
  9. Running and exercise – center me….and lift me up….
  10. Single parenting – I am stronger than I give myself credit. I fall, crumble and bounce back. I can risk it all…and start building it anew. I can give no matter whether I get the same. Single parenting makes it easier to make decisions, spontaneous actions and planning, and allows me to ‘dictate’ child’s diet and menu most of the time. IMG_2936

I think COM noticed that I was giving credit to people, while he did not. So, he added his #10

  1. My teachers that help me learn.

Still, no mention of me, anywhere!  But I am straight —-No! I am not….but hey

It is Thanksgiving Day! Not Mourning and Pouting Day.

We have watched the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, which is always a pleasure….We Skyped internationally; we are making business connections; we are blogging, and COM is writing down all the books he has read this month. He has already surpassed his set monthly goal of 30 to 53 books! And he still has four more days before the end of month —whoopee-do!

IMG_3049I am making a very veggie Thanksgiving lunch of Eggplant aka aubergine, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and asparagus [didn’t I tell you, there is joy in single parenting!]. And we are watching the National Dog Show!

Happy Turkey, Tofurky, Cranberry sauce [we might just have some cranberry jelly], the pies and all. We will have Sparkling Cider, our special treat!

Whatever you do! Wherever you are! Whatever you eat! Be Thankful!

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Dear Parents, Your Kids Celebrations Are Not About You…!

I typically do not write about family affairs. I have a self-censored rule that “I shall NOT wash my family dirty linen in public. Even with all my multiple identities: as a humanist, a Pan African, a Black person, a woman, a cosmopolitan, an internationalist, I still believe in the “private-public dichotomy. Yes, in my world, there is still a “public” and a “private”, and the private should be spared and jealously safe-guarded from public eyes and ears, and scrutiny. The more I have come of age, the more I realize that I do not have to say everything I feel or think. I am grateful that the heart is hidden inside our bodies; nobody can claim to know my feelings. Although, those who seek to find fault, will always claim knowledge of your sentiments, feelings and intentions. Nor, do I need to offer an opinion on everything that I read, observe or hear of. I am grateful that my fingers, mouth and head allow me to excuse myself from uncomfortable situations, until such a time when I am ready to resurface. As my mother always told me, who can claim that you hurt them when you did not say a thing? [Apparently some still take it personal, mommy].
N’way, allow me a minute to break my Code of Silence about “The Private”, and say,
“Dear Parents, your child or your children’s celebrations are not about you. Nor are their intrigues, their excitements, or their dreams. It is their moment. Please do not feel offended if they would like to play with their toys, friends or cousins instead of sitting around chatting with you. If you are on a phone call with them, please do not expect them to maintain a long attention span, unless of course they are talking to you about something that excites them, like their favorite fictional characters. When you give them presents, please let them enjoy the occasion for receiving your gifts: perhaps it is their birthday, they lost a tooth, Easter Bunny visited, it is Halloween or Santa came into town. That is what kids talk about; please allow them to enjoy their childhood. Sometimes they might offend you by saying that they wished for “Pokémon” instead of the “Spiderman” you got them. Please find a constructive way of reminding them the importance of being grateful, and hopefully they will receive what they had wished for next time. Although, as we all know, our children’s interests change as quickly as their attention span. The next time you think of gifting them, or another celebrations comes around, they might wish for snow or white sand from the forest!”
Why I am saying all of this? I presume that if you are a parent, you probably already know all these facts about your children. Though, I have learned that not all absentee parents have these facts at their finger tips. Some want their children’s excitements, beliefs, celebrations and interests to be centered around them. They want their children to follow their own trajectories, as scripted from their childhood, even when they have never spent an equivalent of a month per year, since their children were born! When the kids do not respond per their expectations, the custodial parent is to blame!
Perhaps the same is true that custodial parents also want our children to ‘be like us’. I must say though, I have learned to “let my son be”, allow him to dream as wildly, explore as wide, and seek as far and beyond. I have put on hold my needs and comfort for the sake of my son until that time when he comes of age, or says he does not desire me anymore. I have opened up my son to venture into territories I had abandoned long ago or had excluded from my lifestyle. For instance, I was never a cheese-easter, but I started eating cheese regularly while pregnant with my son, because my OB/GYN said I needed to eat more protein, particular cheese and eggs. I had vowed myself as a cosmo girl, who would never fit or be caught living in suburbia away from the bright city lights, until that all changed in pursuit of “the school district”. I abandoned my geographical place of comfort, in the name of “raising my child around his family”. I have even learned to make, and sometimes taste pancakes, pizza, muffins and donuts, for the sake of my son, although I ensure to make them as healthy as it comes. If you had told me six years ago, that I would be spending my Xmas morning googling, discovering and reading about action figures/fictional characters: Sonic the Hedgehog, Ninja Turtles, Pokémon, Spider-Man, …. Thank You Santa! Or that I would be consciously celebrating Christmas, again!
Talking about Christmas, I ceased celebrations when I parted ways with Christianity umpteen years ago. In my entire stay in America, I had never celebrated Halloween until after my child was born, and I partook in Thanksgiving fetes because friends or family invited me to share with their families. Generally, my personal politics and convictions determined my response to many celebrations and traditions, even though I respect the choices of those who follow these traditions. Halloween to me was a “ghostly blood sucking ‘orgy”, which I always skipped because I hate blood and was fear dead people. Thanksgiving robbed Native Americans of their lands and culture by invading colonialists, whom I did not wish to honor. Christmas and Easter were channels of institutionalized control, miseducation and European colonization of the black mind and erosion and denigrating African culture and traditions. I could say the same about Eid, but since I was not born into Islam [like Christianity], I embraced it, whenever it welcomed me to partake, until my recent departure from consciously seeking to enjoy it or any other inklings of organized religion. [Did I say that I was once engaged to be married to a Muslim African man? Uhm! Story for another day!] I believe the stronger basis for our existence is the fact that we are all humans first born onto this planet in human flesh, with one life to live, before we vanish, or perhaps re-incarnate or hang around our loved ones as spirits.
So, I have learned to let my son live his dream. I do not force him to adopt my own beliefs or confine him to my desires. Well, there are a few exceptions; to protect him or encourage him to learn, or teach him to be a strong and respectful man. I often tell my son that it is important to be polite, respectful and appreciative, than to have high academic grades. As a member of society, there are certain requirements I am gonna impose on him, to learn, to live and excel in human society. As a single mother raising a man, when I have never been a man, moreover a young American man, I am gonna go beyond his wishes to ensure that he becomes a man he, myself and well-wishers will be proud of.
I emphasize to him the importance of “Please”, “Sorry” and “Thank You”, drinking water with his meals, at least between meals, eating vegetables and fruits, getting his homework done and doing his weekly chores of cleaning the bathroom sink, toilet and wiping dressing mirror. I offer no apologies for that!
Still, I let my son dream his dreams. To him, Christmas is about “Santa coming down the Chimney to bring presents to kids who behave well.”  Who I am to tell him otherwise? The “Tooth Fairy” rewards kids who lose their teeth, Halloween is a “Trick-Or-Treat” moment for little kids, the only passport to going out very late at night, on Thanksgiving, it is time to eat turkey, even when mom would rather we ate “Tofurky”, and a Birthday is a very special day to eat cake and receive as many presents. It does not matter that I do not celebrate Christmas, which according to me it is a Christian holiday, my son will celebrate it for as long as he wants, and because I have plenty of family who are Christians. The same way I let him celebrate Eid with his muslim paternal family, [I too have muslim family and friends].
I am not gonna bombard him with the religious symbolism of Christianity or Eid; I parted ways and have no interest in exploring that with my son at this age. In fact, I tried to let him share his paternal families Islamic culture, until grandma gave us the ultimatum, “If he cannot attend Sunday School regularly, he should not come at all.” My intention was to give her an opportunity to spend some quality time with her grandson, since she did not see him a lot in his five years, and she does not ask to spend one-on-one time or take him out, until her other grandkids are visiting.
For as long as I am expected to be the sole parent for this child, I will continue allowing him to believe as he imagines, that Santa came down the chimney and dropped off all the presents, including any entrusted with me to ‘secretly’ give to him. I remain protective of my child’s excitements and wildest dreams, from unnecessary scrutiny and criticism, especially coming from anyone who offers no help or support in parenting him. I know and believe it takes a village to raise a child, but let the village not only come in to condemn.
Hopefully, we as parents will learn to support our children’s dreams and fantasies in their imagination, rather than stifling or suffocating them with our mystical convictions derived from religious dogmas that do not unite but divide us as humans. After all, I am learning that most of what my child is fascinated and get hysterical about is from interacting with age mates, exposure through reading, visual and digital images, his classroom teacher interaction, and lastly from myself as a parent [I know some might disagree]. Perhaps our children’s excitements will enable us to look back eighteen or twenty-one years later and say, “Job Well Done!”

Things we do For Love

It is is true, Never say Never…..

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And I have learned more truth behind this phrase….since becoming a mother. I swore never to do so many things on this list I am just about to share with you. But that was five years ago, when life was still ALL about me.
Call me tree hugger, paranoid, earthy or soulful. I did not care what label got pasted on me. All I wanted was to stay healthy and fit. Keep away from any unnecessary hormones or pounds into and onto my flesh. And, I  did that with a big pie of consciousness. I swore by conscious living, which is pretty much summarized by one of my favorite all time Vanessa William’s Colors of the Wind
You think you own whatever land you land on
The earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

That’s it……That was my mantra….!
Much more empowering, particularly living in a land of “all things possible and fast”. I could get a 5 oz  Häagen-Dazs ice cream, all to myself OR a whole chicken or a box of dunkin donuts, all under $20. Many a time, I deliberately chose to starve myself, not because I had nothing to eat, but because I preferred to keep away from food. No thank you, to Pizza or fast food Burger King, McDonalds and all that. I drank water, tea without sugar, stayed away from colored juices, and a few times bought 100% packaged juice. I also refused to buy into the Hollywood fantasy or some of the US cultural holidays, like Halloween or Thanksgiving. That to me, was a promotion of consumerism, worshiping dead people (in the case of Halloween) or commemorating a people who exterminated and robbed a whole nation of Native Americans with a full holiday and fete (Thanksgiving). So, I stayed away from all the hullabaloo about such days.
Not too much anymore, now that I have a five-year old American child who is coming of age in America. Ok, I still take my tea without Sugar, except when I treat myself to honey; I am not a “chicken girl”, as I call myself, and YES! I stick to 100% juice freshly pressed from home or bought in store, as a compromise. But I have thrown out many of my Nevers…..either because I want to cut corners or in the name of pleasing my son or giving him The American experience. So, here is how I have re-arranged myself with Things we do for love
1. Learned to drive when my son was seven months. Living in the suburbs, where public transport is not a reliable option, I realized that I had to dump my “I am a city girl crap”, and get behind the wheel. I would not encourage anyone to wait until they are of age to learn to drive, but do it if it gets that bad…..because, the rest is, her-story…
2. Class Projects made from scratch. For “show and tell” activities that pre-school and Kindergarten teachers ask to do at home. While every minute counts expensively, we have decided not to take pre-done or purchased items anymore. Instead, we make ours -yes that takes too much time but the returns are gratifying. For instance, the last time we made a ball and cap for “Orange Day” show-and-tell.
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3. Ordering Pizza because my son loves it when he has a chance to eat it. He does not get many of such opportunities, and I have convinced his popsy not to feed him too much pizza. Not just because I consider it junk food [no offense to pizza lovers] but, maybe so (at least for me). Plus, he has constipation issues since birth, especially when he consumes wheat. So, it is safer to keep pizza away from him. Although, now I give him a pizza treat once in a while – and he’s exhilarated!
4. In bed with Hollywood because my son loves visuals. We watched Lion King, Finding Nemo, Cars and Ice age from bootleg home videos. We watched The Incredibles from a friend’s 3D home video. And then, I gave into temptation, and went to the movies to watch Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs. Oh! he loved them, and I did too! I feel asleep while watching Despicable Me 2 in a moving theater with him, and woke up to little giggles. How can anyone resist taking such a cute happy one back to the next big thing in Anime?:)
5. Make believe anything, from pretending to be an astronaut, a pilot or a truck driver, I have done it all. We play anything he says we should play – restaurant, where he is the chef and I am the customer, riding cards – he is McQueen and I am Francesco or going to the park and pretending to throw and bat a baseball, with no play instruments whatsoever.
6. Becoming the Pancake Lady, just about every weekend. Thanks to Pinterest, I could find a health recipe lower in carbs. Now that I know I can substitute anything with wheat, I have bought me corn flour to substitute the whole wheat. I add apple sauce and banana…then I do not need any Maple Syrup.
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7. Perhaps TV does not rot the brain, always, as I used to tell my son. I am not a TV person so I claim. But do not ask me how I am Keeping Up with the Kardashians, hangout with The New Atlanta, all the Housewives, worship at the altar of America’s Next Top Model, and met Girlfriends, Two and a half men, and Everybody Love Raymond! The official claim is, I get drawn to this kind of TV while flipping through channels to find the news, Court TV or Discovery. In reality, this is my guilty-pleasure. Since discovering PBS Kids, I have revamped my mantra, and let my son watch, learn, enjoy, laugh and share. No rot there! Good thing, he has little interest in Nickelodeon…until his cousins come to visit.
 
8. Eating microwave popcorn just about everyday. I do not know if this is related to my son at all, but it is something I picked up since having him. I love love love popcorn. I am still doing fat free OR 94% fat free, but I am probably gonna be eating popcorn for a while longer.
9. Jumping onto American holidays to Trick-or-Treat or Thanksgiving. I confess that the first Thanksgiving I celebrated in my 15+ years of living in America was probably back in 2002? But that was with a friend’s family. I do not remember many more thereafter. But in 2008, following the birth of my son, we did a real Family Thanksgiving, and in 2009 did our first Trick-or-Treat had much! Then we left the country two years later. Now that we are back… Trick-or-Treat, with Captain America and Bat Girl! it was, with the entire neighborhood! more exciting doing it when the kid is grown!
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10. Bye bye Calorie Count, sometime. For a little ice cream or fries and burger OR to take advantage of the playground at McDonalds, whenever it is cold or too hot outside or just because I need to sit down and unwind and write. And did you know, McDonalds has salads too? and 3 for $1 cookies? Oh! such a royal treat.
But at least, we have not given in completely. Whether we are driving our SUV gas guzzlers, eating popcorn, giving our money to Hollywood, playing “make believe” and making “applesauce, raisins and walnut whole wheat [or corn] pancakes. We are still 100% all Natural and Gluten Free! EXCEPT….:)
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