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Who is Kamyra? Read her blog about families, parenting, and life as a 21st century womanist.

THE MAGIC OF THE SEASON - December 26, 2006

Whew! Another Christmas is behind us. This time of year is extra special for me because my husband and I met in December and my son believes in Santa Claus. Witnessing the joy of Jesus' birth and the magic of Santa Claus through a young child's eyes is priceless. It also takes a lot of energy and planning to support.

I shop for Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa throughout the calendar year. No last minute impulse purchases for me. However, this November I added knitting gifts and making ornaments with The Believer to a To Do List that already included baking cookies. All of this would have been doable if in the midst of this The Believer had not been diagnosed with pneumonia. Why did I make the effort to complete the list and perpetuate the Santa myth?

Life is magical. Santa Claus is an early peak into the definition of magic. Santa and company are things people believe in although we can not see them. Blind faith is important in homes centered on spirituality and religion. Sooner than I would like my son will learn that Santa Claus is not real. Yet, he still will have the magic of Jesus' birth and blind faith in God. He may not see them but he'll have experience believing in things he can not touch.

NO FIGHTING ALLOWED - December 18, 2006

I will not fight for my child. Parents are often quoted saying, "I'd kill for my children." For me, the test of my faith and commitment to my son is when I do not fight. Instead I try to defuse a situation and set a positive example for his little eyes. Turning the other cheek hurts more than the side of my face. People do not respect this approach. They call me weak or worse. Some help by explaining to me how real women fight. For years I boldly stuck up for myself and defied anyone to bully me. That took strength. However, backing away from confrontation demands more courage than setting someone straight. Real women's courage goes beyond reacting to another's issues. It's sticking to your beliefs in the face of hurt, negativity and ridicule.

PREPARING FOR MY 15 MINUTES - December 11, 2006

This summer I naively applied to be a Real Simple magazine featured reader. I rationalized that it would be creative marketing for this web site. Within a few months I was notified that I was being considered for the March issue of Real Simple. "Yeah!" I thought. "They have my photo and application. The hard work is complete." Ha! Late one November Friday I was contacted about the possibility of a 'day in the life of Kamyra' photo shoot with my immediate family. "How's Tuesday?" Again, naively I agreed. Thus began my preparations for my fifteen minutes of fame. I spent the next few days cleaning our house, photographing the neighborhood and securing March wardrobe selections for my family. Remember it was November and my son is three years old. He couldn't fit the clothes he wore last March and we had not already bought his March 2007 gear; nearly impossible to find in November. Vanity convinced me to beg my dental hygienist for an 'emergency' tooth cleaning . . . Back to the housework. My husband, son and I live in a cozy Manhattan apartment. We are neat but our place is never photo shoot ready. On a good day we live in an organized pre-school hangout. I tried to sell the idea of outside pictures. Nope. November foliage is a no-no for a spring issue. Over-drive and excitement got us through the weekend. Then Tuesday arrived.

There's nothing like hosting a camera crew, make-up artist / hair stylist and magazine executives in your home. The first thing I learned is that my clothes do not measure up, even for a magazine with practical, budget conscience readers. The second is that "minimal make-up and hair takes a long time and constantly must be retouched to keep one appearing "natural". The most important lesson is that contrary to family opinion my kid is not fashion model material. He did not understand why the camera crew didn't behave like his mother and chase him while clicking shots, hoping that one will be good enough to keep.

I don't know what the page will look like but I am praying to the Gods of PhotoShop and professional editing for mercy.

'TIS THE SEASON - November 27, 2006

'Tis the season for difficult people. The holiday season is here, with it comes opportunities to mix-n-mingle with co-workers, acquaintances, friends and family. Not everyone is as merry as the actors in the made-for-television movies assaulting our screens. For some, the end-of-the-year holidays are stressful and/or depressing. Unfulfilled dreams, societal pressures and strained family relations contribute to these feelings. Some people are challenging throughout the year. Their specialness is amplified during the last six weeks of the year. Since no one reading this fits the above criteria, what should you do to minimize these demons effect on your festivities? If you can not avoid the perpetrator, try to:

  1. Silently hum a favorite tune while nodding to someone's complaining, criticizing and gossiping.
  2. Change the subject
  3. Answer negative comments with positive statements and affirmations.
  4. Remain silent
  5. Excuse yourself.
  6. Pray / meditate for the person and your ability to deal with him/her.
  7. Ban downtime. Engage in planned organized activities.
Good luck! Happy holidays!!

FIESTA - November 6, 2006

I have survived my son's third birthday party. In honor of full disclosure, let me share that in addition to writing, I plan events. Contrary to popular myths, not everyone can throw a good event. In her August 13, 2006 New York Post column, Liz Smith summarized my sentiments about fundraising events, "Make them want to come back next year! . . . Send them out laughing and not sighing, 'Oh, God. I thought that would never end!'" Her pointer, "You might raise a lot more money by having a first class party-arranging company help . . . pros are excellent and worth what they charge," is more than a plug for the profession. When I am working an event my sole role is to pull of the logistics. My family is not emotionally invested in the affair. When I'm hosting a personal celebration I'm responsible for logistics, socializing and everything else. My biggest error is that I am so busying coordinating the details that I forget to mingle and model having fun. How rude!

Today kiddie parties may be lavish but they can lack something. Party etiquette does not disappear because the quests are tots. Hosts must still respect people's time, send thank you notes and be prepared with appropriate food and activities. Although packaged birthday parties at child-oriented venues may be impersonal, they excel at staying on schedule and having good activities.

Despite knowing better, I've chosen not to hire professionals for my son's parties. We prefer old school, home spun parties with themed paper products and cake. One of my goals is to show my son's peers' parents that our home is inviting and safe. Yes. The primary goal is to celebrate the birthday boy but I can't resist using the opportunity to relieve people of racist assumptions. Because my little one's birthday is early autumn his is often the first party of the school year; the first time class parents mingle outside of school. From my experience as the only African-American student and now the parent of the same, I know that my son will have a shot at an enjoyable year if I alleviate social tensions by opening the Black kid's home. I've learned that after seeing how we live my parent peers are comfortable sending their precious ones on play dates to our home; which is an improvement over when they politely invite us to their homes or insist that my turn to host is a perfect opportunity to take the kids on an excursion.

Our family parties ignore the smaller is better rule. We invite everyone: the whole pre-school class, church school buddies, neighborhood kids, shirt-tail cousins and relatives. The different types of people rub shoulders and our gregarious son is overjoyed by having all of his loved ones in one place. This was a bit uncomfortable last year when we were rained out of our condo's spacious courtyard into our cozy apartment. We also invite too many guests because I am driven to be inclusive; no hurt feelings associated with our parties. I still wince when I recall overhearing that I wasn't invited to a classmate's party because her parents did not want a nigger in the house.

Children's parties have become social events. The competition for creative venues, performers and goodie gifts is outrageous. For as long as our son allows we will continue to host low-scale shindigs that highlight who and what he is rather than what his parents can buy. I understand why other families prefer small parties or the ease of the package deal. Both are most appealing to me when I am in immediate post-party contemplation. For now, our unprofessional, too large, casual affairs do the job. Or, should I say jobs?

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Photo Credit: John Oko Nyaku, Photo Works