Hurricane Update

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Hey folks,

BadAssMama Central is down due to Hurricane Sandy. Happy to report that the munchkins and The Hubs and I are safe. No power, no cell signals, but safe and dry at home. Be safe. Hope to be back with updates (and a sense of humor) soon. 

Are You Smarter Than a Five-Year-Old?

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Everything I know about the power of resilience, I've learned from my kids.

Let me explain.

When my kids want something, they pursue it. Doggedly, persistently, enthusiastically. Whether it's reading one more book, getting one more cookie, learning how to hit the ball with the bat or make a jump kick in karate without falling on their faces. They stick with it, keep trying, and more often than not face disappointment with a wink and a smile.

I see it all the time, but the past 2 days were filled with examples from both of my boys. On Sunday, we attended a birthday party with Angel's kindergarten classmates at one of those indoor mega-bouncy castle spots. There was one station that resembled a slippery rock climbing wall. The kids had to run up the slope, attach a velcro strip to a spot on the wall and use it to climb to the top. It was like the wall was greased with Crisco. Kids were bouncing off the base of the mountain, climbing a few feet only to tumble back down to the bottom. Most kids gave up after about 3 tries. Not Angel. This kid kept at it for at least 20 minutes. He would charge the mountain at full speed, then bounce to the bottom. He tried to grip the vinyl and pull himself up with his arm strength. Each time he bounced, tumbled or slid to the bottom he would jump up with a big smile on his face and say, "Did you see THAT, Mommy? Next time I'll go EVEN higher!"

Today's lesson came from my little guy. Victor started karate a few weeks ago (they usually start kids at 4, but a) he's built like a brick, b) he has a better attention span than many 7 year olds and c) after watching his brother for a year, he basically knows all of the moves). So, I'm in the waiting area working on a presentation for tomorrow's all-day planning meeting when I hear Victor's distinctive wail. I take a breath and look up to see the instructor carrying him off of the mat with an already prominent egg on his forehead. Apparently, Victor lost his balance during a jump kick and took a header into the base of the punching bag. My first inclination was to grab Victor from the teacher, run to the emergency room and never come back to karate again. Instead, I calmly informed the instructor that I thought Victor was too young for the class and that we should not continue. At this, Victor immediately stopped crying and told me, "No, Mommy. I like karate. I want to try again." After some quality time with an ice pack, Victor was back on the mat and finished the class stronger than he began.

Life it tough. We get knocked on our butts on an almost-daily-basis (some days, more than once!). As we grow older, too many of us simply stay down when life throws us for a loop. Rather than continuing to fight, we throw up our hands, wave the white flag and pick only the battles we know we can win.

Oh, to have the wisdom of the under-six set. No matter how many times life knocks you down, always get up and try again. Even better if you can do it with a maniacal grin plastered across your face....


Makeup Monday with D'angelo Thompson

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Beauty Has A Name(s)
By D'angelo Thompson

I am always like a proud dad when my peers introduce new brands to the beauty market especially women entrepreneurs. 
Launching this week 10/26 Rich Cosmetics (www.richcosmetics.com) by celebrated make up  artist Cynde Watson and in two 
weeks 11/8  Carousel Beauty Box luxury make up brush line by Mary Khadijah Brooks (www.carouselbeautybox.com)...

--
D'angelo Thompson, make up, groomer, beauty educator, blogger  and author
www.dangelothompson.com

I'm Not Your Superwoman....

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I hear some version of, "I don't know how you do it!" at least 3 times each week. Whether it's from a young, single colleague at work, a full-time working mom in my industry or part-time working mom at the morning drop off, the question comes in various shapes and sizes:
  • I read about all of these things that you're doing and I think, "Wow! I want to be like that" 
  • I don't know how you moms with two kids make it. I can barely handle just one!
  • You're like Superwoman! You really CAN do it all
  • I can barely get my daughter out the door fully dressed and I only work part-time. How do you do it with 2 kids AND a full-time job?
Behind all of these questions lurks the same fear that all mother's have (whether we've come to admit it or not). The fear that we're not good enough. Not worthy. It's as if the fact that someone else appears to be doing it more/better/more smoothly than we are proves that we are just not cut out for this mommy-gig. That if we could only do more, be more, plan more, play more, work more, we would finally deserve the title of MOM. 

Well, The BadAssMama is here to tell you that you ARE worthy simply because you ARE A MOM. You love your kids and you give your all every day. That is enough. YOU are enough. Right now. Period. End of sentence.

I'll let you in on another little secret. Don't believe the hype - I may call myself The BadAssMama, but I am just as much of a hot mess as the next gal.  On any given day, I fail myself and my family in numerous ways:
  • I yell at my kids on a near-daily basis (this morning, case in point...)
  • I hide in the bathroom when I'm feeling overwhelmed
  • I treat my husband like an underpaid assistant
  • I plan more than play
  • I work so much that my kids have learned to say, "I can't right now, I'm busy" from watching me
  • I've been known to fall asleep in the bathroom stall at work...and not realize it until 20 minutes later
  • I haven't had a regular date night since Clinton was in office
  • I question my abilities as a mom on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis
  • Even after rising to the top of my field, I still wonder when someone will figure out that I really have no idea what I'm doing
  • I use this blog as therapy, to supplement the actual therapy that I'm pretty much mortgaging my future to pay for
I do not have all the answers. Hell, I don't even know half of the questions! But I am learning to trust myself as a parent, as a wife and as a woman. After thirty-some-odd-years on this planet, I am finally learning to feel comfortable in my own skin and to own my story - warts and all. 

I am able to exercise regularly and build up some momentum professionally because my kids are FINALLY starting to sleep past 5am (hallelujah!). As they become more self-sufficient (they can brush their teeth, put on their clothes, play with each other for roughly a 20 minute stretch before the screaming begins), I'm starting to have some semblance of a "normal" life again (whatever that means). 

This was NOT the case when my boys were babies. In those early years, it was all about survival. Can I make it through the morning meeting without falling asleep? Can I subsist on a diet of apples and Cheerios (the only things that did not give my boys gas and GERD during the nursing months)? How long can I survive on less than 3 hours of sleep each night (the answer -roughly 5 years....)?

Having kids is a tough job. Having kids and working is harder. Hell, having kids and trying to do ANYTHING else can be crazy-making. But none of us has the magic bullet, ladies. None of us know what the hell we're doing. We're all just trying to hang on, learn from our mistakes and keep it moving day-after-day. 

I keep it real on this blog because so many times, I've felt "less than" when comparing myself to other mothers who seemingly have it all together. Then I learned the secret - I was comparing my blooper tapes to their highlight reel. 

Behind the scenes, we're all a hot mess. 

Adventures in Parenthood

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Over the past few weeks, we've had the opportunity to shake things up here at BadAssMama Central. As much as I enjoy routine and predictability in my schedule, every once in a while you have to be spontaneous - even with two-under-the-age-of-six. 

I've learned (after many painful errors in judgment) to never give the boys a clue that we have a surprise for them. Unless, of course, I am in the mood for some variation of, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" up until the moment we actually walk through the door of the event in question. So, over the past 2 weekends we've successfully kept the boys in the dark until seconds before each special event. 

Last weekend, we were invited by the world famous Harlem Globetrotters to join their 2012 season opener at the brand spanking new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was incredible to watch our kids enjoy a throwback from our childhood. Angel and Victor danced in the aisles, laughed themselves silly, cheered for the Globies and smiled until their faces hurt. I will never forget this moment for the rest of my life. 







This weekend, the memory making continued with a surprise trip to North Carolina for the Bank of America 500 NASCAR race, sponsored by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I love the fact that my little jet setters (each traveling since they were babies) made no qualms about rising before the sun to get on an airplane, even though they had NO idea where we were going. They are even getting big enough to help with some of the heavy lifting at the airport...


We toured the pits, hung out in the TMNT Kids Zone, watched the game from a super cool suite, met the Ninja Turtles and carried two sleepy but thoroughly blissed-out boys back to the bus to snooze until 8am Sunday morning (a record for my two early risers!)





Without a doubt, my family enjoyed two back-to-back incredibly amazing, once-in-a-lifetime weekends. More importantly, I am happy to say that for once I was able to take a breath and enjoy the moment rather than planning, worrying, cleaning, fussing or organizing. Yes, The BadAssMama is taking baby steps toward living a more mindful existence and actually experiencing the moments with my kids rather than just planning for them and fussing about how exhausted I am. 

True, the weekend did end with a delayed flight that included a barf bag incident and two little boys discreetly peeing in a juice bottle during our final descent. But we handled it all with a wink and a smile.

And The BadAssMama never even broke a sweat....

Beauty Mondays with D'angelo Thompson

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Spa Search
By D'angelo Thompson


Allure Magazine is always good with giving you the  top spas in the top 5 or so American cities which is great, but try aesthetic schools in your local area. They have top of the line equipment and extremely affordable. Another option is going to your dermatologist. They can provide the same services as a spa for a  comparable price or less.  Rather than the  spa being an every other month treat it can be bi weekly one  and still save ALOT of cash.


D'angelo Thompson, make up, groomer, beauty educator, blogger  and author
www.dangelothompson.com




Confessions of a BadAssMama - The Control Freak Edition

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Being a good parent is hard. Being a control freak and trying to be a good parent is damn-near impossible.

Let me explain.

The longer I'm in this mommy-business, the more I realize that raising children is an exercise in patience, restraint and learning to let go. While I've become rather adept at this approach as a manager in my professional life (letting my team make mistakes in a controlled environment is the best way to teach, you can get more done through delegation than trying to do it all yourself, great ideas can come from every member of the team), it just seems SO MUCH HARDER when it comes to raising my kids. Not to mention the fact that while 98% of the people I work with are relatively mature and somewhat sane, my children are tiny lunatics hell-bent on driving ME crazy.

I really think it breaks down to an issue of control. We all want the best for our children. We want to help them grow up to be the best version of themselves possible, to provide them with the best educational and enrichment opportunities to prepare them for whatever adventure they choose to pursue after their 18th birthday.

My problem is I want them to do it when I want, how I want it done and as soon as I tell them to do it.

While my employees have the incentive of a paycheck, benefits and bonus potential to keep them on the straight-and-narrow (not to mention the fact that I am the best manager in the universe....and humble to boot), my kids didn't seem to get the memo that mommy is the boss. On a weekly basis, Victor actually attempts to convince me that HE is the boss (and oftentimes I fear that he might be right). Like mommy (and daddy), our kids have their own concept of what they want for their lives. And, unlike most adults, young children have little-to-no sense of self control, delayed gratification or empathy for the greater good. They want what they want, when they want it.

So, at BadAssMama Central that basically means you have a control-freak mommy attempting to control two control-freak children while her decidedly un-control-freakish husband dodges flying objects.

Maybe it's just me, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm not alone. How do YOU get your kids to follow your lead without resorting to yelling/bribing/throwing your own tantrum on the floor? 

Basic Training

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When I first moved to New York nearly 13 years ago, I started to work out with an incredible trainer at Crunch Fitness. George was a perfect fit for me. He knew how to tap into my competitive spirit, but understood that my incredibly out-of-shape body could not keep up with the badass image I had in my head. Instead of pushing me to the breaking point, he knew how to challenge me to the point of exhaustion, but not defeat. How to point out when I was phoning it in, while encouraging me when my gasps for air were out of desperation rather than laziness. George helped me to establish a foundation of fitness and helped me to realize that I was an athlete-waiting-to-happen.

Fast forward 10 years, 2 kids, 5 marathons and countless Bikram yoga classes later. I was reading Self magazine on a plane back from a conference and stumbled upon a kickass sandbag workout. The article drew me in because it was designed to give you maximum results with minimal equipment and a small commitment of space (something that is at a premium in any New York apartment or home overcrowded with toys and small children). After flipping through the workout, I went back to the opening paragraph to find that the workout was created by George Vafiades (my George!) of As One Fitness.

I jumped onto the website and felt catapulted back in time. George and his partner, Mark Merchant, have created an incredible group workout system that combines all the benefits of personal training with the added boost offered by a group dynamic. With class size limited to 16 people, you get the individual attention of a personal trainer with the bonus of wanting to work harder than the person next to you (not that I’m competitive or anything….).

I entered my first class skeptically. While I looked forward to seeing George after so many years, I hadn’t belonged to a gym since my first son was born (while I’ve recently added Bikram Yoga into my rotation, I worked out on my treadmill or with exercise videos for the past 6+ years). In just over an hour, I did over 150 burpees, 110 mountain climbers, 50 assisted pull ups and 55 each of jumping squats, pushups and dead lifts. It was a killer workout, but I’m proud to say that I held my own. The next day, I couldn’t lift my arms higher than my shoulders and saw more definition in my arms and upper back than I’d seen in years.

Needless to say I came back this week.

If you’re in the New York area, check out As One Fitness at www.as1effect.com. Your first session is FREE!


Makeup Mondays with D'angelo Thompson

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Color Color Color
By D'angelo Thompson


I'm in awe of the delicious eye shadows and eye pencils on the market this season. I know we all love our classic black, brown or navy shadows and or eyeliners for eyes but POP a jewel toned pencil over it and watch every dimension of color come alive in your eyes!


D'angelo Thompson, make up, groomer, beauty educator, blogger  and author
www.dangelothompson.com

Scared Straight

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I thought that I was doing alright in this mommy-gig. I gave tough love to my big boy when he got in trouble in school for wiggling around rather than concentrating. I do my best to build my boys’ self esteem by reminding them that they are smart – every day. I encourage the boys to believe that they are the best. And according to Lisa Bloom and her latest book Swagger, I am setting my boys up on the road to failure.


Let me explain.

When the good folks over at What The Flicka sent me Swagger to review, my initial thought was that it was yet another book focused on the plight of economically disadvantaged youth in America. The title and its striking call to action doesn’t do much to sway one from that assumption (“10 URGENT RULES for raising boys in an era of failing schools, mass joblessness, and thug culture”).

Lucky for me, I kept reading. And I HIGHLY recommend that EVERY PARENT – particularly parents of boys – do the same. As a matter of fact, stop reading this review, buy the book NOW and then come back…

Bloom begins with a scathing review of the many ways our embarrassingly sub-par public education system, overly-punitive judicial system, crumbling economy and glorification of women-bashing, nihilistic thug culture in popular music are setting our boys up for a dismal future. One of her most gripping points (aside from the fact that almost half of all adults in Detroit are functionally illiterate)? That early on, our naturally kinetic boys are given the message that they are NOT welcome in school – being placed in time out or labeled as a “disturbance” for their often naturally high levels of energy, while recess and gym are all but eliminated as teachers are increasingly forced to teach-to-the-standardized-test.

I have to admit, I found it VERY difficult to get through the first half of the book without falling into a pit of despair. Bloom emphasizes that, while these elements have an impact on both girls and boys, the girls seem to be faring far better – with women outpacing men at all levels of the education system and becoming the driving force of our professional work force as well. Rather than a sign of sisters doing it for themselves (although we do work hard), these ever-expanding achievement gaps are the canary in the coal mine, signaling an ever-deepening crisis facing boys in America.

Fortunately, Bloom ends the book with 10 simple, straight-forward and relatively inexpensive ways for parents to equip our boys to succeed in spite of the ever-increasing odds against them. Some are relatively obvious (respect for girls and women, an emphasis that college is not only an expectation but a requirement, limit TV time, support his teacher). Others are surprising and poignant (value humility above over-confidence, have your child catch you – or more importantly, your husband – reading, travel with your boy to show him that the US way is not the ONLY way).

Swagger is a gripping, disturbing, inspiring and urgent account of the forces conspiring to hold our boys back, and the ways that we as parents can help them to achieve in spite of a system seemingly dooming them to failure. As a mom of 2 boys, I am grateful to Lisa Bloom for this incredibly well written and researched book, and look forward to reading her earlier work Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World.

Owning my Story

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There has been a lot of buzz about Angelina Jolie's announcement regarding her preventative double mastectomy today. I am impressed by the way she has chosen to frame her story as a way to empower women to know their risks and make their own decisions. As many of you know, I made a similar decision in 2010.

Here is my story...

I used to think that young, healthy women who chose to remove their breasts to decrease the risk of breast cancer were crazy. Then I became one of them.

Let me explain.

I am 39 years old. I am a wife and mother of two boys under the age of five; full-time executive, part-time blogger. I exercise regularly, keep an eye on my diet and have completed a total of ten full and half-marathons. I also have a significant family history of breast cancer - which means that I have seen a breast specialist every six months and had an annual mammogram, sonogram and MRI for the past ten years.  I’ve had four breast cancer scares over the course of six years. And in the past 22 months, I have had both of my breasts and ovaries removed.

And I’ve never been happier.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Preventative surgery is not for everyone. Even with a history and genetic makeup like mine, surgery is not an obvious or easy choice. But for me and my family, it was the right choice.

Ten years ago when I began the process of special screening for breast cancer, I looked at it from a very practical perspective - my genes are out to kill me, so I will do everything in my power to stop them. While the screening was nerve-wracking, I never gave it much thought. I kept my appointments like clockwork and always assumed that the results would be negative.

That all changed on February 6, 2007 when my first son was born. Suddenly, there was a tiny human being who depended upon me for everything. I couldn't get sick, take a vacation, work late…or die. Fast forward to January 9, 2009 with the birth of my second son, and suddenly I had twice the number of reasons not to die. Becoming a parent forced me to confront my family history in ways that I never had before.

After testing positive for the deleterious mutation of the BRCA2 gene (more commonly known as the “breast cancer gene”) in April of 2010, I learned that in addition to my risk for breast cancer I was also at an elevated risk for ovarian cancer. Women with BRCA mutations have a 36-85% chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime (the general population has a risk of roughly 12%) and a 16-60% chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70 (the general population has a risk of less than 2%). *

According to my breast specialist, Dr. Stephanie Bernik (Chief of Surgical Oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York), screening is an alternative to surgery for women with BRCA mutations. The problem is, “some studies suggest that even with intense screening, you are not guaranteed to catch breast cancer at an early stage.” Dr. Bernik emphasizes that the survival rates are great when breast cancer is caught early. But the higher goal isn’t survival, it’s avoiding cancer and treatment in the first place – especially for women like me.  

Breast cancer screenings are not foolproof, but ovarian cancer is much more insidious still, with annoyingly general symptoms like abdominal bloating and irregularity. According to my “ovary doctor”, Dr. Stephanie V. Blank (Gynecologic Oncologist, Women’s Cancer Program at NYU Langone Medical Center), the recommended course of action for BRCA positive women varies from person-to-person. Surgery is the best preventative option available today. However, Dr. Blank emphasizes that it is not the right option if a woman isn’t sure that she’s done having children or simply is not comfortable with the idea. “It often takes some time for a woman to get used to the idea of taking her supposedly normal ovaries out to prevent a disease, so (for some women) the decision can take months or years.” If a woman is not ready for surgery, as was my case when we first met, Dr. Blank discusses “the limitations of screening for ovarian cancer – false positives, false negatives and the stress that screening can cause without definite benefit.”

The turning point came for me in October of 2010, when there was another suspicious finding on my regularly scheduled breast MRI. Within a matter of days, I had an MRI-guided biopsy and spent yet another sleepless week waiting for the results. When I went to see Dr. Bernik for my follow-up, she happily informed me that the growth was benign. I was actually shocked to hear myself tell her that I’d had enough. While preventative surgery always seemed extreme to me, the thought of looking over my shoulder every six months for the rest of my life was simply too much. That day, I spent nearly an hour discussing every detail of the surgery with Dr. Bernik and almost two hours discussing my reconstruction options with Dr. Oren Lerman (Plastic and Microvascular Surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital).

On December 15, 2010 I had a prophylactic radical bi-lateral mastectomy with diep flap reconstruction (or, to you and me, a microsurgery using my own tissue to reconstruct my breasts). While it was a harder decision to remove my ovaries, my husband Angel and I had decided shortly after the birth of our second son (over a year before I learned of my BRCA status) that our family was complete. On September 22, 2011, I had a prophylactic bi-lateral laparoscopic salpingo oophorectomy  (I know – it totally sounds like something out of Dr. Seuss, but it basically means a minimally invasive surgery to remove both ovaries and fallopian tubes).

It’s been almost 2 years since I had my mastectomy and just over a year since my oophorectomy. While this has been the most challenging 2 years of my life, I can honestly say that taking these aggressive steps to prevent cancer from cutting my life short was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I could have continued looking over my shoulder every six months, hoping and praying that the tests would remain negative. Instead, I chose to tell cancer to f*&k off. You want my breasts? Take ‘em! Now I have a better pair. You want my ovaries? I was done with those anyway.

I chose my kids. I chose my husband. And I chose me.

*Source: National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health

Makeup Mondays with D'angelo Thompson

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Switch it Up
by D'angelo Thompson

Life as an artist/entrepreneur can be a little scary at times, and what I've learned is to switch it up - never to get comfortable. If you wear the same lip color year-round, switch it up. If you wear the same hairstyle due to fear or convenience, switch it up. If your shoes are looking worn, switch it up. My point is to make sure you are taking care of YOU in small ways and the rest will align as it should. If not, SWITCH IT UP!

D'angelo Thompson, make up, groomer, beauty educator, blogger  and author
www.dangelothompson.com