Dodging Raindrops : A Return to Joy

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It’s been too long since I’ve written on the blog. I have had a whilrwind of a year and different but similar challenges with my kids but I am recommitted to sharing my journey, support, knowledge, mistakes and resources with parents and anyone willing to join me here. I hope you leave feeling more encouraged and less alone than when you came.

Today I took my son to his doctor’s appointment at Children’s Hospital. It’s always an emotionally exhausting trip. The traffic is always a mess and he usually has back to back doctor visits which means we’re there for at least two hours. I try to make it worth the trip by also getting in some quality time. Being a suburban kid he loves the idea of spending time walking around West Philly and eating burgers off of the food trucks. Even though I had tons of work to do back at home and clients buzzing my phone we stopped at one of his favorite diners in town to ear. I watched as the rain started to drizzle , then pour then slow down to a drizzle and then back to a heavy shower. I wanted to do anything but walk out of there and get soaked but I saw him look out at the rain with anticipation. He smiled every so slightly and I was instantly reminded of the days I would laugh out loud watching the joy on his face as he jumped into the largest puddle he could find. I would keep an extra change of clothes and shoes in the car just for these times. We would search for the largest, mud-filled puddle in the playground or on the way home. He would look at me with this look of excitement and smile just as he approached the puddle as if to ask permission to take flight. It brought both of us both joy, a few strange looks from other parents, and an extra load of laundry in the house, but oh how we both laughed. He was a toddler then but those are moments he’ll never forget.

Today my son and I got caught in the pouring rain. We were two city blocks away from the car. I found myself trying to avoid the puddles as I watched him find the largest one to walk through. At one point we both met eyes and laughed getting our clothes soaked while running to the car.  It took me back to those days I would stop the car just to let him jump in a big puddle. I saw the same joy in his eyes that I saw then as the scientist in him laughed at me trying to dodge raindrops all the way to the car. Laughter is sometimes the best medicine. I realized at that moment he was teaching me how to let go of what other people think and just jump in. Have fun. Get wet. Get soaked. Be cold. I’m learning to be more fun and less motherly these days. My children need that side of me. I need the joy moments too. Just wanted to share a piece of my sunshine today. Hope you are taking moments for joy today.

Please feel free to share, like and comment.

#loveistheanswer

How Effective is Your School District? Repost of the interactive NYT Article 12/9

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I’m not too surprised to see that some of the wealthier districts perform similar and sometimes less effective than those not so wealthy. It’s not only the money that’s required to make education equitable, but it sure would help those districts in need. If we don’t educate ALL of our children equitable, we as a nation will have more problems than a tax cut.

Please urge your elected officials to support equity and inclusion in our school districts; visit Common Cause to find out who they are and how to contact them. Show up to your school district meetings and speak up, attend a local workshop, rally or meeting and educate yourself about the inequities in education in your community. Commit to a minimum of an hour a week, volunteering with local grassroots organizations. Donate to an active organization or support a school in your state in need of classroom supplies through Donors Choose.

We can no longer sit and expect our tax dollars, our representatives and our local activist to do all of the work. Take a sick day, take a lunch break, take your kids with you but please take action! Comment below on what action you will take. We need everyone to make this world great!

NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE

#bethesolution

#Whatthehealth am I feeding my kids?! Five crucial revelations from the documentary.

 

With the onset of the new school year, and the return to packing lunches and planning meals for a household of busy family members I am always conscious of the food that I provide for my family. My goal is always to make sure my children get plenty of rest, a good nutritional breakfast before they head off to school, snacks if necessary and a good healthy lunch for those who prefer not to eat the lunch provided at their school.

I’ve always felt good about our health. Yes we could exercise more and eat less snacks during the day but I almost always buy organic vegetables and fruits, I rarely cook red meat (when I do its grass-fed beef )and only purchase organic poultry and wild caught fish. I don’t use sugar, only agave nectar or raw honey if I need a sweetener for tea, and almond milk is the only beverage other than water that you’ll find in my refrigerator. During holiday or other gatherings at my home, relatives and friends would joke about my organic version of soul food dishes and the lack of preservatives in the snacks I provided and I would laugh along and remind them that I would have the last laugh.

What the Health

Or so I thought until I stumbled upon What the Health on Netflix. I had been thinking about removing meat from my diet because I noticed that I experienced more inflammation and less energy when I ate meat. Yet I was also aware that I had to consider my growing teenage son and pre-teen daughter and I knew that carbs and protein were essential to their diet especially during the school year. I was convinced that meat was the best source of protein and bread/pasta the best carbohydrate. Boy was I wrong! I was stunned by the information revealed in this documentary. My uncle and grandfather both maintained their own backyard farms and my ancestors worked on Georgian farms most of their lives. I knew that the earth provided everything we needed to sustain us as human beings but after experiencing these five revelations watching both movies I realized that I needed to make another lifestyle change:

  1. Watching Food Inc. after this documentary confirms a lot of information that these industries are trying to conceal. The information in What the Health, even seeing the three health transformations in the movie, can seem extreme without watching the documentary Food Inc. It’s a totally unrelated documentary but for me it removed any doubt.
  2. Major food companies selling quick, overly processed and preserved foods are also contributing to the major health organizations that we trust to work towards our healing. The American Diabetes Association, The American Cancer Society and other major health organizations that we rely on to provide the best health and dieting resources are all financially supported by companies that produce unhealthy foods.
  3. Diabetes is an insurmountable health crisis; the fact that it disproportionately affects African-Americans can be directly related to food choice and availability of affordable, fresh foods in the urban communities. I myself visited the same “Fresh” supermarket in both a suburban and urban neighborhood and found mold and partially rotted vegetables in the urban supermarket and the price of the same vegetable was more expensive.
  4. Vegetarian and Vegan eating is the ultimate goal, but can’t be achieved overnight. It’s not just a diet change, it’s a mindset. I eat fairly well, but it is a process and if you go into it with the idea of transitioning and not beating yourself up when you eat a processed food or a meat, you will have more success. Give yourself a timeline and work with a nutritionist or health consultant to create meal plans and shopping lists to help you transition. I was inspired by The Healthconscious Diva’s Facebook live and blog posts. Her customized meal plans and shopping lists are reasonable and in her videos shows you how to prepare some of the dishes.
  5. Don’t beat yourself up after watching the movie. The information hit me like a gut-punch and as a parent I felt a bit of guilt for the food choices I’ve made in the past; driving through the fast food lane to get to a baseball practice in time or the countless amount of hot dogs and ice cream eaten during their early growth years. The information is bold and un-apologetic and yes promotes the vegan lifestyle encouraging the masses to increase the amount of food consumed from the earth and generally make better food choices. Reducing the amount of sugar you use and/or making a decision to remove fast food from your diet is progress. Purchasing organic meats or meat and produce from local farmers is much better for your health than not.

It’s progress not perfection. Give yourself time to transition to a more healthy lifestyle and if you have not yet watched the movie I strongly suggest you watch it. Watch with an open mind and consider your own family’s health issues and then make the changes large or small to guarantee you will be around to watch your great-grandchildren dance!

I’d love to hear what you thought about one or both movies!

 

#FREE Criminal Record Expungement Clinic, September 23rd, Philadelphia!

Sept 23 expungement 2017

The Daddy Daughter Dance; it’s not just a party it’s an investment in her emotional well being.

TODAY, June 17th is the eighth annual Daddy Daughter Dance. It takes place again this year in Philadelphia at the Hilton Hotel  from 6-pm. The event started as the idea of the founder of Daddy UniverseCity who recognized the significance of the bond between father and daughter. With all of the bullying, school stress and social media influence in our young girls lives our daughters can easily fall victim to anxiety, depression, school suspension and low self-esteem without a strong father or father figure for support.

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Educator caught on tape belittling a young female student

I volunteer every year not just to support DaddyUniverseCity and their vision to support and educate fathers, but because of the beautiful stories that I see walking through the door. I’ve seen fathers with disabled daughters, grandfathers attending with their daughter and granddaughter, men with infants and diaper bags on their shoulder and young girls dancing with their little feet on top of their father’s for guidance. I’ve seen tears in the eyes of grown men and grown women alike and it’s obvious that it’s the first time they have spent this type of quality time with their father or child. There is not simply music, good food and tiaras but there is genuine healing of families and relationships happening after the tickets are purchased and the couples are seated. I see it in their eyes, I hear the conversations and feedback as they pour out of the ballroom drenched with joy. I am always filled with hope and fulfillment and while I wish I had the chance to attend once with my own Dad, I am ever so grateful that my daughter is sitting at the table every year with hers.

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The event started eight years ago with 50, last year over 500 were in attendance. If you don’t have your ticket, there may still be time but I wouldn’t wait much longer. Miracles are waiting.

www.dance8.eventbrite.com

Oh yes and Happy Father’s Day!

 

 

Fatherhood advice via new website for Daddy University

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Re-post of the January 8, 2017 article about Daddy University, a Fatherhood support resource, in the Philadelphia Tribune:

The leadership team at Daddy University has started off the new year with a brand new website to help guide fathers of all ages through parenthood.

Located at daddyuniv.com, the website offers a baby supplies checklist for new fathers, legal information and a place for fathers to share their story of challenge or triumph.

While the website is new, the male parenting education company Daddy University has helped fathers in the Philadelphia area since 2004.

For eight months out of the year, fathers come to the West Philadelphia YMCA to meet with President and CEO Joel Austin and discuss topics ranging from how to communicate with a rebellious teen to how to braid their daughter’s hair.

Austin, a father of four, was inspired to create Daddy University after taking his eldest son to a Big Brother/Big Sister class at a nearby hospital. While hospital staff taught his son how to change a diaper and help out mom and dad, Austin realized he needed to take notes too.

“I am now the head of my household, and the only one who has had no training in taking care of children,” Austin said. “Even my five-year old has had a better class than me.”

He decided enough was enough. First, Austin started researching lessons on childcare online. Most of his results were from maternity websites. Next, he and co-founder Edward McGee started meeting with focus groups. After those took off in popularity, Austin and McGee then launched the Fathers Club with a full class curriculum.

“It’s not about fatherhood over motherhood, it’s about having two educated parents to raise a child,” Austin said.

In the past, people have joined the Fathers Club through word-of-mouth or recommendations from social services. Attendance ranges from 50 to 100 people, from teen fathers to grandparents caring for their grandchildren.

One of the first lessons Austin teaches is personal responsibility. Instead of referring to the child’s mother by name, he tells the men in his class to use the phrase, “the woman I chose.” Austin also teaches parents how to communicate with their children. His solution-based lessons help parents create more time between reacting and responding to an issue.

“The biggest problem I have in my class is that many of my men are not taught conflict resolution,” Austin said. “The thing is, everybody can actually win.”

The Fathers Club classes cover the time between a child is born to adulthood. With his oldest children in their early 20’s, Austin says he doesn’t believe in 18 being the magic number.

“So you were dumb at 17-and-a-half, but for some reason at 18 you’re supposed to be given this miraculous gift from the heavens of knowledge?” he said. “Instead, he works with parents to develop an exit strategy so children can be successful after they leave the home.

“None of them are raising children,” Austin added. “They are raising somebody’s future husband, wife, mother or father.”

Other than weekly classes, Daddy University also offers a fatherhood conference, young male Conference, mother and son dance and a daddy and daughter dance. The daddy and daughter dance takes the form of a debutante ball, and ticket sales help fund Daddy University. About 50 people showed up to the first dance. Seven years later, more than 650 fathers took their daughters to dance.

“We didn’t realize that a lot of adult women would be bringing their dads as well,” Austin said. “Now, the ages of the event are three years old all the way up to 60 or 70.”

With the website now active, the leaders at Daddy University are now looking towards advocacy for parenting rights and expanding the Fathers Club to the South Philadelphia YMCA. Austin plans to continue guiding dads in parenthood.

“I want people to have fun with parenting,” he said. “Crawl on the floor as much as you can.”

Information and ways to donate to Daddy University are available online at daddyuniv.com.

mearls@phillytrib.com

(215) 893-5732

Teachable Moments; 6 things I wish I knew before my daughter’s brain injury

wp-1483807802159.jpgLife can change in a blink of an eye. It’s a phrase you hear often and never really “get” until it happens. One day my nine-year old was walking, reading Harry Potter novels repeatedly, running after her friends and swimming like a fish and it all ceased within the seconds that passed when she slipped on wet leaves, fell forward onto a wooden beam on the ground and injured her head. We have both gone through the difficult phases of grief and as a parent it’s just natural to wonder if there was something I could have done differently or sooner to help her heal. What I’ve learned with the help of my dear friends (and some strangers) who allowed me to release my fears and frustrations into their ears was that I had no control over this accident nor could I change the way I navigated my way  through the health care matrix to find the appropriate care for her. What I can do however, is share my experience so that another parent is better informed about brain injury in children than I was when this accident occurred so here goes…

6 Things I wish I knew before my child’s head injury:

  1. Keep them home from school the following day.

    Luckily her accident happened the day before a holiday and she was able to rest for three days before she returned to school. Some of her concussion symptoms did not present themselves until close to a week later but if I was aware of the protocol for children who fell and hit their head I would have taken her to the doctor the next day.

  2. Get an incident report

    In my daughter’s case no one saw her fall and I was at work and unable to see her until an hour or so after the incident. We all had to take her word for what happened. It’s best for insurance documentation to get an incident report from the school (or organization if your child is at day care, summer camp or sports). Most child care organizations are required to fill out a report and should give you a copy. If they don’t, ask for it.

  3. Even if your child has only one symptom, take him/her to the pediatrician for evaluation

    Refer to #1 above for the list of concussion signs and symptoms from the Center for Disease Control. I’ve learned that not every child exhibits symptoms in the same time frame and severity and it’s best to proceed on the side of caution and take them to the pediatrician for evaluation even if they complain of only a headache. Your doctor may tell you that protocol is to wait a week but I would insist on having your child seen anyway.

  4. Seek out a pediatric concussion specialist in your area.

    Not every neurologist or hospital ER has a wealth of experience with every age range and not every pediatrician specializes in brain medicine. It took almost a month of going to doctors and emergency rooms before I found a doctor that best suited my daughter’s needs. I am not sure why but her first doctor did not seem to have compassion for her and her immediate needs. I asked neighbors and friends in the medical field until I received a few referrals for her specialty. My next step was to check to see which were covered under our insurance which narrowed the list down further. We are located in Pennsylvania, but the Brain Injury Association in your area can provide a list of service providers. I have also learned that sometimes to connect with the right doctor, you have to be willing travel. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Our second doctor was the best fit for her.

  5. Contact your school district and county for resources

    It wasn’t until I sought out a second opinion, six weeks post injury that I was informed there was a school re-entry program specifically for children with brain injury. This consulting division of our county’s Intermediary Unit serves as a liaison between the school and families and provides you with the resources and support you need to transition your child back to school. Brainsteps, the consulting program in Pennsylvania is fully funded by the state. My daughter’s case manager has visited our home and provided such encouragement for my daughter and myself!

  6. Make self-care a priority; ask for help and don’t be too proud to accept it!

I had no idea how exhausting and stressful it would be mentally and physically to manage a household, business (I’m self-employed) and my daughter’s care after her brain injury. Luckily I have a “village” of friends who knew it would drain me and immediately offered to help. I didn’t want to bother anyone because I knew they all had families to support but my friend reminded me that there’s enough compassion in this world for everyone. She asked if she could set up a meal train which allows neighbors to sign up and bring home cooked meals to your family. I didn’t realize how much time I spent on preparing and cooking our meals until I didn’t have to! Other friends have come to visit, helped with laundry and housecleaning or sat with my children so I could go out to the movies or just sit still with a cup of coffee or have a glass of wine with a good friend. You have to find time for yourself away from the stress and strain where you can relax and release. The help is available but you have to ask for and allow yourself to receive the help. Genuine help is there ; you are better able to care for your child when you take the time to care for yourself.

You may have experienced brain injury, be a medical professional or have a young child who may one day be diagnosed with a concussion; either way I hope this has been helpful to you.

Feel free to share and comment here if this was helpful and please take a moment to become a friend on our Facebook Page for African American Parenting.

Thank you for visiting. Make today great!