I am loved! Positive Affirmations For Our Children

By affirming all that is good in our children, we teach them to combat the inevitable negativity they will face on their path to adulthood. In so doing, we can instill in our children an unwavering confidence and belief that they can not only guard their own light but spread that same beautiful light throughout the world.

I remember the moments after my first son was born like it was yesterday.  It was shortly after six in the morning, and I had spent the vast majority of the previous twenty-four hours in an exhausting labor.  Like so many moms I know, I ended up having an emergency cesarean section.  The decision came swiftly and before I knew it, I was laying in a cold and bright operating room with the lower half of my body shielded by a blue curtain. As the doctors worked, I looked up at my husband, my hand woven with his, feeling a mixture of excitement and fear. It took eighteen minutes to hear that sweet sound but when I did my whole world changed. It was my sons cries. A whimper and then a steady whine. They brought him to me swaddled, his full pink lips pressed firmly together and his eyes open wide. The love I felt was instant, immeasurable and all encompassing.  Almost a decade later, I am a mother of three beautiful sons. Each entering the world with just as much of a profound impact on my life.  It has been a joy to witness them as they receive this world, arms and eyes open wide, dwelling in radiant light.  Anyone who has spent time around children knows the light I am talking about.  A young child can embody all that is beautiful about the human experience. Children greet each day with excitement.  They believe in the good in those around them.  They love without condition, and they see endless possibilities for their lives.

As we know, the path to adulthood can be trying.  Pain, grief, disappointment and heartache are inevitable facts of the human experience.  Even the brightest light can dim in the face of negativity.  Our children will inevitably question their worth, beauty and value.  In a perfect world, we would be there for every threat to their humanity.  However, as our children grow into complete human beings, they will venture boldly into this world without us, having experiences we could never predict.  As adults who love them, it is our duty to release them into the world with the ability to protect their own lights.  By affirming all that is good in them, we teach them to combat the inevitable negativity they will face on their path to adulthood.  In so doing, we can instill in our children an unwavering confidence and belief that they can not only guard their own light but spread that same beautiful light throughout the world.

I wrote my latest book I am loved! Positive Affirmations For Our Children to protect and spread that beautiful light. It is available for pre-order now on Kindle and will be available in paperback on February 14, 2017.  I hope you love sharing these beautiful affirmations with your children as much as I do.

I am loved! Positive Affirmations For Our Children will be available February 14, 2017. Pre-order it NOW HERE.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Something’s Not Right: My Experience with Postpartum Preeclampsia

African American women are three times more likely to die from preeclampsia. I had chronic hypertension, which is a risk factor, but it was well-controlled and monitored so I had no reason to believe this disease would impact me.

I’ve never had an easy delivery. That’s probably why the first thing I said to my husband when he greeted me horizontally in the operating room just prior to my second son’s c-section was, “Never again.” I had just spent the better part of twenty minutes hunched in my obstetrician’s arms as an anesthesiologist jabbed me with a really, really big needle in my spine.  He had trouble finding my epidural space. The result of which was a two-week long spinal headache.  However, six years later, one day before the 2016 Election, I found myself once again laying in the same position preparing for the birth of our third son.  Don’t get me wrong. This little guy was planned. He was wanted.  However, that didn’t stop the anxiety from practically eating me alive as I prepared for his birth.  I was prepared.  That is, I knew what to expect.  However, I also knew all the things that could go wrong.

This was my third c-section.  I had considered VBAC. However, during monitoring my son’s heart rate dropped so I would have had to be induced at 37 weeks. Since labor via induction can be harder on a previously scarred uterus, I chose a third c-section as the safest option for baby and me.  Surgery went well.  I had scar tissue that complicated things but my son was perfect.  He was 7 lbs 10 ounces, 19 inches and screaming his head off.  10 fingers. 10 toes. A head full of hair and placed right in my arms.  The days following my c-section were brutal but nothing out of the ordinary. As the remaining effects of the epidural wore off, the pain returned with gusto but I was on three different pain medications so it was manageable. We stayed in the hospital four days and were released with a clean bill of health. I had no swelling, my incision was healing already, and all of my vitals, including my blood pressure, were great.

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The first warning sign came the day I got home.  It was a Thursday.  As I was parked in our recliner, surrounded by members of our immediate family, I noticed the beginnings of extreme swelling in my legs and feet.  By the following day, my feet had blown up so big, I couldn’t fit any of my shoes or socks. My feet had even gotten too wide for my husband’s socks (he wears a size 15 shoe).  Even more concerning, when I pressed into my feet with my fingers, they left deep imprints (I later learned this was pitting edema).  The swelling was so bad I could feel my skin stretching.  I called my doctor and she told me it was probably normal. However, I would be further evaluated at my postnatal check up the following week.

My second warning sign happened a few days later. I developed a horrible headache. Even with the pain medications, I couldn’t find relief. As a migraine sufferer, I assumed it could be a migraine.  With a new baby in the house and not much sleep, a headache seemed natural and like nothing to worry about.  Plus, it was a Saturday and my appointment was on Tuesday.  I figured any concerns could wait a few days.

When I finally made it in to the doctor’s office, I was surprised to find my pressure was elevated.  It was reading 160/92 which was a sharp contrast to the perfect readings I had gotten all throughout my pregnancy (find out more about normal blood pressure readings here).  My doctor assumed my pressure was elevated due to the excess fluid and put me on a higher dose of labetalol, a pressure medication to help lower my readings. I was already on a small dose to regulate my chronic hypertension before pregnancy.  She also tasked me with monitoring my pressure at home.  Luckily, I owned my own cuff so I was able to record my readings at home.  I had heard of preeclampsia (a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system) but it was rare (though possible) postpartum.  I asked my doctor about it anyway and she tested my blood and urine just in case.  All the tests came back negative.

Two days later, I woke up with an excruciating headache.  I took a pressure reading and it read 174/112.  My husband had just run out to the grocery store, and I called him and told him we needed to go to the hospital.  Everything in my body was telling me something was wrong and the reading confirmed it.  I called my doctor and they told me to go straight to labor and delivery.

When we arrived at the hospital, almost a week to the day we had been released my pressure was 186/121.  I was scared, my head was pounding, and I could barely see straight.  The doctor’s immediately gave me IV blood pressure medication and put me on Magnesium to avoid a seizure or a stroke.  Although the emergency meds worked, I spent almost another week in the hospital trying to find the right medication combination to safely release me from the hospital.  I maxed out on two medications before finding the right combination, and was given IV rescue medications twice.  At one point, my pressure was being checked every fifteen minutes.  It was rough but I survived.  In the end, I was diagnosed with atypical postpartum preeclampsia, a rare and life-threatening condition if left untreated.  My condition was atypical because I never showed signs in my blood or urine. I also developed it almost two weeks after giving birth.  Most women develop symptoms during pregnancy or within 48 hours of giving birth.

I didn’t want something to be wrong. I know that sounds silly but after giving birth, all I wanted to do was live and breathe my new son.  Even now, just writing about it fills me with anxiety.  When I started swelling, something deep inside of me told me something was wrong.  However, I was almost too afraid to know because I didn’t want to be rehospitalized and ripped away from my family.  Nonetheless, I knew letting the fear of knowing paralyze me wouldn’t change anything.  The sooner I acted, the more likely I would be able to get control of what was making me sick.  Ultimately, even though I was hospitalized for another week, my husband and newborn were allowed to stay with me so I didn’t lose any days nursing him and bonding with him.  Most importantly, however, I am ALIVE.  I feel so thankful I listened to my body and had the support of my family and doctors who recognized something was wrong and acted quickly. I will likely be on a large amount of medication for the next month or so but my awesome team of doctors assured me I will be fine.

The fact is African-American women are three times more likely to die from preeclampsia. I had chronic hypertension, which is a risk factor, but it was well-controlled and monitored so I had no reason to believe this disease would impact me.  It would have been easy to ignore my symptoms as sleep deprivation or just another part of postpartum recovery.  However, if I had, I may not have lived to tell my story.  Often women in our community are celebrated for our strength and independence.  Our strength is a source of pride.  Seeking help can make you feel vulnerable and weak.  However, as a survivor, I know recognizing my vulnerability saved my life.  No matter how strong we believe we are, recovering from birth takes time.  As new moms, our bodies have spent close to a year building a life.  If I could lend any advice it would be to listen to your body. Lean on your support system and allow yourself to heal.  Be your own advocate. Be vigilant.  Ask questions and remember, no symptom is too small or question too silly.  If any healthcare professional makes you feel like it is, find someone else. Remember, the most important thing is for you to survive to raise that tiny human.  He/she is depending on you to make it through.

For more information on Preeclampsia, visit preeclampsia.org.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

 

 

Minute Mentor: Filmmaker and Educator Chad Quinn

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

Minute Mentor is a series of posts profiling real people achieving their dreams. It began with the simple idea that “seeing is being.”  When cofounders Rick and Faye’s oldest son was born, it was clear he was musically inclined. He was playing piano by ear at age 4 and neither of them ever even picked up an instrument! When Faye remembered an old neighbor who had gone on to become a Julliard trained musician, she immediately reached out to him and said, “What do we do?”  He patiently answered all of her questions on how best to nurture her budding musician.

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

If you have any questions or comments for the featured guest, leave a comment, and we will do our best to bring it to their attention! Happy imagining!

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NameChad Quinn

Age: 36

Occupation: Filmaker/Assistant Dean of Public Charter School

Career Level:

  • Entry
  • Mid-level
  • Executive
  • Entrepreneur
  • Retired

How hard do you work? 

  • Lots of Leisure Time
  • Typical 40-50hr Workweek
  • More than Average
  • I never stop working

Lifestyle/Income

  • Side Hustle/Didn’t Quit My Day Job
  • Getting By
  • My bills are Paid with Some Room for Fun
  • You get a car! You get a car!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where do you currently reside?

[I was] born in North Carolina, raised in Jersey. I went to Temple University and obtained a degree in Marketing and Business Law.  I then went on to further my studies at Howard University School of Law. I’ve spent 12+ years in corporate America working for multiple Fortune 500 companies as a consultant and research analyst. But with all my work and studies, I’ve always wanted to make films.

 What kind of student were you?

Hmmm…somewhat troublesome. School came really easy for me.  [I] had mostly AP courses, so I would get in trouble for running my mouth and causing issues because I knew I was going to pass regardless. Then one day a teacher shared with me that although I was doing fine, my behavior was really affecting those I considered friends, that changed my perspective and helped me be more of a leader.

“I overcame adversity due to my willingness to continue to push through regardless of the obstacle. There is not one successful person on earth who’s done it all alone. I developed a very trustworthy and supportive team to help guide my career. From family to friends, I owe them so much credit for my success.”

Describe your current job/jobs.

I work with high school students (grades 9-12) on all types of issues relating to academic and behavioral performance. I’m also a filmmaker. I write constantly. I have multiple films that are now hitting the film festival circuit and a few projects I’ll be pitching to networks in the coming months.

What education level is required for your job? Tests? Certificates? Years of School?

Advanced degree to be a Dean of Admissions. Film, none, just a serious work ethic and dedication to the craft.

 Did you have a mentor/mentors? How did you meet?

On the film side, somewhat. We met during the shooting of one of my earlier projects and have been working closely ever since. She’s taught me a lot about the film industry, both from an artistic and business perspective.  

How did you get your current job?

Working my way up the ranks. I honestly come back to God’s favor. I started at the bottom of the totem pole with no prior experience in education and continued to foster relationships with both staff and students. Eventually, opportunities arose for me to move up in this field.

Do you find your work fulfilling?

Very. I couldn’t happier with both areas of my work. They provide me an opportunity to make tangible impacts to our society.

Did you always know you wanted to pursue your current career path?

I always knew I wanted to be an educator in some capacity. As far as filmmaking, I’ve been writing short stories since my early teen years. Watching a movie, from the opening credits/music, to trailers, everything about making movies just always fascinated me.

 What, if any, setbacks have you faced? How did you overcome them to accomplish your goals?

My setbacks are no different than those in other disciplines; rejection, lack of opportunity, discrimination, lack of support, lack of experience, etc. I overcame adversity due to my willingness to continue to push through regardless of the obstacle. There is not one successful person on earth who’s done it all alone. I developed a very trustworthy and supportive team to help guide my career. From family to friends, I owe them so much credit for my success.

“…the first and only person you need to sell your idea, dream, or whatever to, is yourself. Because there are many lonely and dark days to the path of success, if you don’t truly believe in what you’re trying to accomplish, then you won’t.”

What advice would you give a parent of a child/young adult interested in pursuing a job in your field? What advice would you give them on pursuing any career goal?

Don’t just say what you want to do, create a plan and then go out and execute. And this holds true with most things in life, if not all. Belief in yourself is the key. It sounds cliché, but the first and only person you need to sell your idea, dream, or whatever to, is yourself. Because there are many lonely and dark days to the path of success, if you don’t truly believe in what you’re trying to accomplish, then you won’t.

Anything you would like to add?

Be on the lookout for a few films I have slated for screenings in multiple cities within the next few months, Perceptions, #Trending and Mixed. To find out more specifically about Perceptions you can follow us at http://perceptionsmovie.com/. Additionally, I have a movie, Sex, Politics, Race and Religion, due to come out with TVOne next year.

Check out the trailer for Chad’s upcoming movie Perceptions here.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Minute Mentor: Social Worker and Motivational Speaker Shameeka Mattis-Pinard

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

Minute Mentor is a series of posts profiling real people achieving their dreams. It began with the simple idea that “seeing is being.”  When cofounders Rick and Faye’s oldest son was born, it was clear he was musically inclined. He was playing piano by ear at age 4 and neither of them ever even picked up an instrument! When Faye remembered an old neighbor who had gone on to become a Julliard trained musician, she immediately reached out to him and said, “What do we do?”  He patiently answered all of her questions on how best to nurture her budding musician.

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

If you have any questions or comments for the featured guest, leave a comment, and we will do our best to bring it to their attention! Happy imagining!

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Name: Shameeka Mattis-Pinard, LMSW

Age: 35

Occupation: Social Worker

Education: Master’s Social Work ’05 University of Pennsylvania; Bachelor’s Degree (English & Sociology) ’03 SUNY Binghamton

Career Level:

  • Entry
  • Mid-level
  • Executive
  • Entrepreneur
  • Retired

How hard do you work? 

  • Lots of Leisure Time
  • Typical 40-50hr Workweek
  • More than Average
  • I never stop working

Lifestyle/Income

  • Side Hustle/Didn’t Quit My Day Job
  • Getting By
  • My bills are Paid with Some Room for Fun
  • You get a car! You get a car!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I’m from Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  I was raised in the Ingersoll House i.e. “the projects.”  I currently reside in NYC. I’m a creative music lover, married and love my puppy.

What kind of student were you?

Since I can remember, I was an A student when I applied myself, but an A-/B+ student when I procrastinated or didn’t study well, which was often.  I was always curious, questioning, intrigued by learning, a strong writer, and creative.  I was rowdy and talkative, but astute.  So, [I was] a cool brainiac that would fight or flip at the drop of a dime, but whom teachers loved and scolded equally.  I also made friends with everyone and have some of those friendships to this day.

I was a rough kid with a sharp mind and even sharper mouth, but I believed I could be successful because [my] mentors were my daily examples.

Describe your current job/jobs.

I’m the Director of Programs for a victim service and alternative to incarceration program based in restorative justice in NYC for young adults who commit violent crime.  Responsible parties get a chance to make amends with the people they hurt and instead of going to prison, they remain free without felonies on their records if they complete the program.  I supervise the counselors, develop anti-violence curriculum, interface with the courts, set organizational policies, and build community partnerships.  I’m also a motivational speaker, educator and writer.

What education level is required for your job? Tests? Certificates? Years of School?

A master’s is required for my position.  College graduates from the associate to bachelor level are employed where I work.  However, having a Master of Social Work degree enabled me to make more decisions, have great autonomy, supervise anyone, have leverage and get paid very well.

Did you have a mentor/mentors? How did you meet?

To this day, I’m still in contact with my mentors and close to many of them.  Since I was age 3 or 4, I had mostly Black women in my life that helped me discover myself, love myself, aim high and never settle.  I was a rough kid with a sharp mind and even sharper mouth, but I believed I could be successful because these mentors were my daily examples.  I met most mentors in school, but a few connected with me when I attended church and recreational activities.

How did you get your current job?

I worked in criminal justice in Philadelphia after finishing graduate school, grew tired of those particular jobs and wanted to move back to NYC, particularly to Brooklyn, where I knew my field had innovative opportunities.  I also knew I deserved more money and had talents to expand upon, so I spoke to friends & former professors that encouraged me to consider a prominent criminal justice advocacy and research agency.  When I received an interview, I researched the agency and program, brought my A-game, and the rest is history.  I began my job the day after I helped to elect President Obama to his first term, so that helped it feel extra special.  Talk about a fresh start!

It’s difficult but life-changing work, so I surround myself with people who are good at what they do and who push me to be great.

Is your job family-friendly?

Yes, it is.  Plenty of children are welcome and other family members too.  I’ve even been able to bring my dog to work.

Do you find your work fulfilling?

It is fulfilling, but not just because I get to work with incredible young adults, or because of the impact I’m able to make in their lives.  It’s fulfilling because I aim to do my best, ask for and accept feedback, hold myself to the same standards I request of others, including my clients, and I have fun along the way whenever possible.  It’s difficult but life-changing work, so I surround myself with people who are good at what they do and who push me to be great.  I work hard, so my social network of family and friends helps me stay balanced.

Did you always know you wanted to pursue your current career path?

I was naturally drawn to justice work, teaching and counseling as a kid, but I also like to help solve difficult issues.  So I was convinced I would pursue many careers, but social work just seemed portable and full of options by the time I was a junior in college.  I genuinely liked its principles.  So far, I’m not disappointed in the choices I made and path I took.  I stay open to all opportunities because I have many skills and know how to make connections with anyone.

To all my young people, think of the problems you want to solve, not what you want to be or do.  Have fun, learn how to communicate effectively, and remember that you are limitless.

What, if any, setbacks have you faced? How did you overcome them to accomplish your goals?

I used to fight daily as a kid.  Then I argued all the time because I always thought I was right and didn’t know my worth or appreciate other’s differences.  I developed a healthy self-esteem in spite of my poverty as a young black girl and I channeled my talents through academics and sports, surrounding myself with people who encouraged me to shine.  I learned how to be humble.  I was the first person in my family to graduate college and that was huge because both my parents were functionally illiterate and didn’t finish high school.  However, my mom died right after I graduated from college, and I grieved her absence a long time before learning to accept that death is a part of life.  It [was] then [that] I remembered the gifts she instilled in me and understood how they would never leave me.  I don’t forget the people who helped me and the gifts God gave me to share with the world.  I am diligent about asking for help from those closest to me when needed and I keep it real no matter where I go.

What advice would you give a parent of a child/young adult interested in pursuing a job in your field? What advice would you give them on pursuing any career goal?

Don’t push your children to do ANYTHING.  Be patient.  Encourage their curiosity, support their uniqueness and praise them for incremental efforts and success.  Your child is not one size fits all.  Also, your children are not carbon copies of you because they were born as whole people with dreams and purpose.  To all my young people, think of the problems you want to solve, not what you want to be or do.  Have fun, learn how to communicate effectively, and remember that you are limitless.  Don’t rush to grow up.  Have authentic relationships with yourself and others and be honest with yourself always.   Surround yourself with people who are doing productive things because you gain motivation from their success and it generates your own.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Minute Mentor: Internal Medicine Physician Dr. Walters

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

Minute Mentor is a series of posts profiling real people achieving their dreams. It began with the simple idea that “seeing is being.”  When cofounders Rick and Faye’s oldest son was born, it was clear he was musically inclined. He was playing piano by ear at age 4 and neither of them ever even picked up an instrument! When Faye remembered an old neighbor who had gone on to become a Julliard trained musician, she immediately reached out to him and said, “What do we do?”  He patiently answered all of her questions on how best to nurture her budding musician.

Minute Mentor provides a space for real people to tell their stories so if you or your little one is in search of mentorship on how to achieve their dreams, you can look no further than right here! Sometimes the best inspiration comes from seeing someone that looks like you achieving similar goals.

If you have any questions or comments for the featured guest, leave a comment, and we will do our best to bring it to their attention! Happy imagining!

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Name: Dr. Walters

Age Category: 25-40

Occupation: Physician

Education: Bachelors degree; Masters degree; Medical degree

Career Level:

  • Entry
  • Mid-level
  • Executive
  • Entrepreneur
  • Retired

How hard do you work? 

  • Lots of Leisure Time
  • Typical 40-50hr Workweek
  • More than Average
  • I never stop working

Lifestyle/Income

  • Side Hustle/Didn’t Quit My Day Job
  • Getting By
  • My bills are Paid with Some Room for Fun
  • You get a car! You get a car!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I hail from the beautiful island of Jamaica and grew up in New York City, land of opportunity

What kind of student were you?

I have always loved school. I was the type of student who would cry if there was a snow day, and I was unable to attend. I loved school for two reasons: 1) I truly enjoyed learning and 2) I wanted to spend time with my friends. My motivation to work hard in school was mainly to see the look of pride on my parent’s faces.

Describe your current job/jobs:

I am an Internal Medicine doctor. As an Internal Medicine doctor, I treat sick people ages 18 and older. My day consists of admitting patients to the hospital and then taking care of them throughout their stay in the hospital. I work with a comprehensive health care team that includes, but not limited to nurses, dieticians, physical therapists, case managers, and other physicians to provide the best care possible to bring about healing.

What education level is required for your job? Tests? Certificates? Years of School?

A Bachelor’s Degree of any type (as long as prerequisite classes for medical school are taken), Medical school (4 yrs) and an Internal Medicine Residency program (3 yrs).

It’s not often one has a childhood dream that comes to fruition. This has been a long and ardous journey. With the changes in healthcare and the typical work place politics, when I walk into a patient’s room and see their gratitude for my service and sometimes their happiness that I simply just listened to them, it reminds me of why I chose to be a doctor in the first place: to provide excellent health care with compassion.

Did you have a mentor/mentors? How did you meet?

I have had mentors along the way at each juncture of my educational journey. The most consistent and salient mentor that I have has been my husband. He has had spent numerous years working in higher education and has had much experience with the graduate school process. He has been not only my biggest cheerleader but has also helped me to figure out the steps necessary to each stage of my journey. Whatever he did not know, he would look it up or find someone who could help answer questions. That type of dedication makes him an ideal mentor. One does not have to have the same experiences you are seeking, but if they are committed to your success, then it is an ideal mentor-mentee partnership.

How did you get your current job?

I was recruited by a headhunter.

Is your job family-friendly?

Yes, I typically work 12 hours days, but being a team in marriage makes it more than manageable.

Do you find your work fulfilling?

Extremely! It’s not often one has a childhood dream that comes to fruition. This has been a long and ardous journey. With the changes in healthcare and the typical work place politics, when I walk into a patient’s room and see their gratitude for my service and sometimes their happiness that I simply just listened to them, it reminds me of why I chose to be a doctor in the first place: to provide excellent health care with compassion.

Did you always know you wanted to be a doctor?

Yes, I have known since I was in probably in the 2nd grade. I was inspired by Bill Cosby’s character, Cliff Huxtable, on the Cosby show. At that time, up until my 1st year of medical school, I was set on being an Obstetrician/Gynecologist, which is a type of doctor who delivered babies and took care of women’s reproductive health. I quickly realized that I wanted a broader scope of practice, which led me to the practice of internal medicine.

 What, if any, setbacks have you faced? How did you overcome them to accomplish your goals?

I think of it more so as challenges that encouraged me to change habits that were not beneficial to my success. I had to improve study habits; dedicating more time to researching my interests, being flexible about things that were out of my control; and most importantly, actively speaking words of faith and encouragement to myself. Most of my “setbacks” were due to unproductive and false worrying about my own intelligence and abilities.

You are enough and worthy. If you want to become a doctor and provide excellent compassionate care, then stay the course. It is a long journey, and there are many other fields/jobs that have a much more truncated path but if this is your dream, then find mentors and resources to make your dream a reality.

What advice would you give a parent of a child/young adult interested in pursuing a job in your field? What advice would you give them on pursuing any career goal?

You are enough and worthy. If you want to become a doctor and provide excellent compassionate care, then stay the course. It is a long journey, and there are many other fields/jobs that have a much more truncated path but if this is your dream, then find mentors and resources to make your dream a reality.

Any journey that you choose is never taken alone. Be grateful and acknowledge those that have supported you throughout. They are invaluable and necessary.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Teaching Your Children About The 2016 Election

As media coverage has gotten more and more hostile and divisive, I find it incredibly difficult to expose my children to positive election news coverage that informs them of the choices before the American public. Here are a few kid-friendly sites I have found that make it easier to teach our children about the 2016 Presidential Election and the election process.

This week, the 4th and 5th grade classes in my sons’ elementary school held a mock presidential election.  In the weeks leading up to the election, the students were encouraged to educate themselves on the candidates running for office so they would make informed decisions when casting their votes. As media coverage has gotten more and more hostile and divisive, I find it incredibly difficult to expose my children to positive election news coverage that informs them of the choices before the American public.  However, when my son came home from school after he voted and asked me if Trump “hated babies,” I knew I needed to take affirmative steps to get him informed! Here are a few kid-friendly sites I have found that make it easier to teach our children about the 2016 Presidential Election and the election process.

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1. Kids.gov

Kids.gov is the “official kids’ portal for the U.S. government.” It is divided into four categories: Kids (Grades K-5)Teens (Grades 6-8)Teachers and Parents.  It also has a link to their YouTube Channel which currently features a video on how votes are counted in an election. The site features games, videos and interactive worksheets explaining the workings of the government.

Truth be told, the site is pretty no frills and not all that exciting. However, it is extremely informative. It was a great refresher for me and also gave me the tools to teach the basics of U.S. government to my children in a way that they understand.  The site does not discuss the candidates but it does include links to learn about your individual state.

2. Scholastic News 

Yes, this is the Scholastic of your childhood. Scholastic is a publisher of thousands of books and educational materials for school age children.

I like the Scholastic site. So did my kids. Visually, the site is appealing.  It includes an election countdown, results of a student Scholastic vote, and stories by kid reporters, including the latest election news.  The site also includes candidate profiles and lessons on the election process.  Scholastic is unique because it is the only site I came across that provided information on Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, the Green Party and Libertarian Party nominees, respectively.

3. TIME for Kids

TIME for Kids is a weekly classroom news magazine sponsored by Time, Inc.  It is very similar to the Scholastic site.  It also features an opportunity for kids to vote, stories by kids reporters and candidate profiles.  I like the profiles on Time better because they are more detailed.  For that reason, they may be more appropriate for older children.

Although they don’t address the more controversial issues of the election, there are a few articles on TIME for Kids that tackle difficult topics that your children may have questions about like, “How possible is a Rigged Election?”  The article is a fact-based discussion of voter fraud but it does mention Trump’s allegations of election tampering.  I appreciate that Time doesn’t “dumb down” the election coverage which makes it a great spring board for discussing the election with your child/children.

4. PBSKids.org You Choose 2016

We are big fans of PBS Kids website in our house.  The site has games and activities featuring your favorite characters from the television network.  Their 2016 Campaign Coverage does not disappoint.

While it isn’t as comprehensive as TIME for Kids or Scholastic, it is a great resource for younger children.  It’s simple interface and lively music made it attractive to my six year old almost immediately.  It includes a section called Meet the Candidates which features basic information about the Democratic and Republican nominees.  It also features a number of videos with a kid reporter named Presley who explains the basics of government and the election process.  Kids can also create campaign posters and trading cards with past U.S. Presidents and their spouses.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Staying Connected When Your Family is Far Away

If, like me, staying connected to long distance family and friends is important to you, here are a few tips for maintaining a family connection even when you are miles apart.

Growing up, the majority of my extended family lived within a ten mile radius of my childhood home in southeast Queens.  In the late 1950s, after a brief stay in Manhattan, my grandfather and grandmother settled in St. Albans, Queens after leaving North Carolina along with millions of other Black people fleeing the segregated South during the Great Migration.  My grandmother died before I was born.  However, my grandfather stayed in the house he raised his daughters in until his death in 2010.  My mother and her sisters stayed close, and raised their families in the surrounding areas in Queens and Long Island.  As kids, almost every Sunday, we gathered at my grandfather’s house to eat his food and run wild in his house.  There was never a shortage of sitters or playmates.  Looking back, it was a fact of my life I just took for granted.  When I left home for college, I couldn’t have anticipated that I was leaving that time of my life in the past.

To my surprise, the typical American only lives eighteen miles from their mother with close to 20% only living a couple of hours away.  However, those with college and professional degrees are more likely to live father away due to the pursuit of job opportunities.  This was true for me.  After college, I moved to D.C. for law school and ultimately met and married my husband. We chose to stay because the job opportunities and cost of living were more amenable to the lifestyle we wanted to live than my hometown in New York.   While we are fortunate to live close to my husband’s family, most of my family is still several hours away.  When we had children, I knew I’d have to improvise to give my children the same strong sense of family I had when growing up in Queens.   If, like me, staying connected to long distance family and friends is important to you, here are a few tips for maintaining a family connection even when you are miles apart.

1. Video Chat

Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangout, Apple’s FaceTime, Tango and other apps make it easier than ever to have face-to-face time with long distance friends and family.  While this seems like the most obvious choice, setting objectives, like story time, for these face-to-face calls  can make them even more special.  My children love to show their grandmother artwork they’ve created or share other milestones they wouldn’t be able to share on a voice call.

2. Pen Pals

When I was a kid, my father used to travel a great deal, and he would send me postcards from his destinations. It used to make me feel so special to get mail “like a grown up.”  Similarly, my kids LOVE getting mail.  Every so often, their karate school sends encouragement postcards and when birthday time rolls around, they love to check our mailbox for birthday cards.

If your long distance relative is willing, a great way to stay connected is to allow your kids to send handwritten letters.  It can be even more fun if your child has a cousin or child relative who is also writing age because they can write each other.  You can find great kids stationary on Amazon that allow your children to create personalized notes.  Writing can also be more intimate which allows your child to develop a special bond with their long distance relative.

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3. Recordable Storybooks

Recordable storybooks allow a friend or relative to record themselves reading a story book for your child. Hallmark has a line that you can purchase in the store or on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  They are great because your child can listen to them any time they want and as much as they want.

4. Blogging/Social Media

When I had my eldest son, I was totally smitten.  Like most new moms, all I wanted to do was talk about him and take pictures of him.  When he was about three months old, I started a blog through Blogger doing just that.  Initially, the blog was intended just for friends and family, but after awhile I caught the attention of other mommy bloggers and developed a community.  Either way, it was a great way to stay to connected with long distance friends and family on my little one’s milestones and my journey as a mom.  Now, blogs can be password protected so they allow you to choose your audience.  If you aren’t interested in writing, social media can be another way to share updates and photos with family and friends.  Just make sure you are aware of privacy practices and standards and be sure not to share sensitive or personal information.

If you aren’t interested in sharing on the web, email based sites like Dropbox, Snapfish and Shutterfly allow you to send images online to specific people.  My best friend has never posted a picture of her daughter online but she regularly sends photos to friends and family via Dropbox, email and text message.

What about you, family? How do you stay connected with long distance family and friends?

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

 

25 Positive Kid-Friendly Hip Hop & R&B Tracks

If you’re anything like me and you just can’t bring yourself to buy a Kid’s Bop album, here are 25 positive old school and new school hip hop and R&B tracks that are safe to listen to with your kiddies!

I love a good dance party with my kids. However, as a child of the Hip Hop generation, sometimes my iTunes playlists are everything but kid-friendly.  If you’re anything like me and you just can’t bring yourself to buy a Kid’s Bop album, here are 25 positive old school and new school hip hop and R&B tracks that are safe to listen to with your kiddies!

1. I’m Black and I’m Proud – James Brown

2. i (clean version) – Kendrick Lamar

3. Everything is Everything – Lauryn Hill

4. One Man Can Change The World –  Big Sean

5. You Gotta Be – Des’ree

6. Just Fine – Mary J. Blige

7. Smile – Kirk Franklin

8. Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson

9. Momma Loves Baby – Solange

10. Don’t Worry About A Thing – Bob Marley

11. Happy – Pharrell

12. Hey Young World – Slick Rick

13. Keep Ya Head – Tupac

14. Superwoman – Alicia Keys

15. I can – Nas

16. Hey Mama – Kayne West

17. Can I Kick It – Tribe Called Quest

18. Ladies First – Queen Latifah

19. Independent Woman – Destiny’s Child

20. Lean on Me – Bill Withers

21. I Am Not My Hair – India Arie

22. Sounds of Blackness – Optimistic

23. I’m Every Woman – Chaka Khan/Whitney Houston

24. Respect – Aretha Franklin

25. Baby, I’m a Star – Prince

What about you, family? What’s on your list?

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Thinking Outside The Box: An Inside Look at Homeschooling

Our families are among one of the fastest growing demographics in the homeschooling community making up an estimated 10% of the homeschooling population. I had the opportunity to chat with Kristina Brooke Daniele, extraordinary homeschooling mom and creator of For Love of Education, a blog chronicling her and her family’s homeschooling journey.

In 2015, the National Home Education Research Institute estimated that 220,000 African American children are currently being homeschooled.  In fact, our families are among one of the fastest growing demographics in the homeschooling community making up an estimated 10% of the homeschooling population.  Research has demonstrated that our journey to homeschooling is unique.  While many Caucasian families cite religious or moral reasons for their choice to home school, African American families often cite frustration with the traditional education system.  This frustration stems from everything from a perceived culture of low expectations for our children to prejudice amongst their peers to the systemic exclusion of African American contribution to American history.

Whatever the motivations, homeschooling is yielding positive results.  The National Home Education Research Institute reports, “[w]hile controlling for gender of student and family socioeconomic status, homeschooling students yielded 42 percentile points higher in reading, 26 percentile points higher in language skills, and 23 percentile points higher in math than if public schooled.  This summer, the Bush family, a homeschooling family of eleven from Boca Raton, Florida made headlines for their incredible academic achievements which includes two teenagers with master’s degrees and a mom who is an architect and attorney.  Stories like these are not uncommon but are these results typical? What does it mean to “homeschool” and is it a realistic goal for “the rest of us”?

I had the opportunity to chat with Kristina Brooke Daniele, extraordinary homeschooling mom and creator of For Love of Education, a blog chronicling her and her family’s homeschooling journey.  She shared her journey to homeschooling and valuable lessons she has learned along the way.

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Q. For those that don’t know, tell us a little about homeschooling.  What is it?

[F]or my family, homeschooling is what feels like the most natural way to educate our child in a holistic way. We focus on skills-based learning and mastery and then utilize that in a way that is reflective of living an actual life. With homeschooling, learning happens beyond the “classroom” through a more hands-on approach. It’s both academic and play. It is not structured.  It is child-led.

Q. What made you decide to homeschool your child?

Honestly, it’s something that I knew that I wanted to do because my educational background was so diverse and untraditional. My mom focused on educating me at home even when she enrolled me in school. I always had access to advanced materials in a variety of subjects. We went to museums and cultural events and traveled a lot. I was never happier than when I was learning on my own, immersed in my environment. In 7th Grade, my mom enrolled me at Columbia Prep, a private and academically vigorous school on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. There, [my] teachers challenged me academically, and as I moved to the high school, I was given more freedom over my academic choices. I still hated going to class, but I enjoyed the control.  In college, I did best in the courses that did not require me to go to class but rather allowed self-directed learning. Many of my courses were independent classes that were designed based on my interests.

In 2004, I became a high school English teacher and received a first-hand look at what the public school system in New York had to offer. [I found] there are limited chances for children to learn from each other and few opportunities for the inclusion of things in which children are actually interested.  Schools created a dangerous social hierarchy of group thought and didn’t respect individuality or creative expression.  Teachers are tired, underpaid, overly stressed, and scapegoats.

So, when it came to my daughter, I wanted to give her the kind of education that I wanted for myself, and even more so I wanted to provide her with a flexible option that could change as her needs, wants, and interests evolved. At two, she was already inquisitive, and I did not want to hinder her love of learning.

I wanted to give my daughter the kind of education that I wanted for myself, and even more so I wanted to provide her with a flexible option that could change as her needs, wants, and interests evolved. At two, she was already inquisitive, and I did not want to hinder her love of learning.

Q. What steps did you have to take to homeschool your child? Certifications? Curriculum planning? State requirements? Annual Cost?

We began homeschooling in New York. New York requires a lot of paperwork, and it differs by county. You must register your child for school at five. We had to submit an Intent to Homeschool and an Individualized Education Plan. Ironically, the IEP is more than I ever had with my high school students because there was no actual curriculum when I began teaching. You must also have your children tested in accordance with state rules.

We moved to Arizona and things are much different here. First, you can delay formal education until the age of eight (which we opted to do based on much research). Once you decide to homeschool, you file a Letter of Intent with the county, and that is it! No seriously, Arizona is a homeschooling-friendly state and not only do they make it a bit easier, but they also provide homeschoolers with many resources.

Ah, curricula? Honestly, I am a bit of a curricula hoarder! I have TONS of material on my computer, in four-inch to six -inch ring binders, in folders, on bookshelves. Everywhere. I research a lot. I spend a lot of time finding things that interest my daughter and incorporating them into how we learn.

[As far as cost], some years I spend more than others. You can do a lot for free. The key is to research, join groups either online or offline, and be open to change.

Q. Is homeschooling largely autonomous or do you have to follow a specific structure as mandated by the state?

In Arizona, it is autonomous. It can be in New York, too, but you must adhere to the state/county standards. Check with your state to find out the regulations so that you avoid any issues. While we have pretty much free rein in Arizona to educate the way that we see fit, I need a guide to ensure that I am working towards a finish line. I use New York’s state standards still because they are a bit more challenging than Arizona’s standards. That is my start point. My daughter is ten.  I print off the standards for middle school and use that to guide us in determining what we will be learning. I do not care about grade per se because they are not organic. My daughter reads on a tenth grade level, but her reading comprehension level is on a lower level. However, she is on grade level (fifth) for math. So using grade standards would not help. I just ask, “what does she need to know by the end of middle school?” [Then], I plan accordingly.

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Q. For many, when you picture homeschooling, you conjure up an old fashioned image of a stay-at-home mom raising her children in a rural, religious environment isolated from the modern world.  How would you dispel those myths? How do you keep your child socially engaged?

There is nothing wrong with the traditional, religious method of homeschooling if that is what one chooses to do. That is how many of our grandparents and great-grandparents were educated. Those who associate homeschooling with fundamentalist ideologies and extreme forms of punishment haven’t been paying attention and are willfully ignorant about what homeschooling is in reality. Much of that can be accredited to what is often portrayed in movies or on thoughtless TV shows. That is not homeschooling but rather neglect and abuse. They are not synonymous, and they are not mutually exclusive.  It happens in both homeschools and institutional schools.

In truth, there is a grave misunderstanding about what it means to be socialized. Socialization refers to being immersed in one’s culture. It is about exposure to the different aspects of society. So I ask you, how does that happen while children sit in a classroom for six to eight hours a day? When do they play? Think about life? Wonder at the mysteries of the sky or play in the dirt? When do those children get to meet the Lyft driver from Japan who has been here for two years and is excited that your child is learning his language and tries to teach her as much as he can in a ten minute ride? When do those children get to attend a First American drum circle? Or ride the subway and wonder how fast they are going or how trains work? When do they get to talk to the conductor? When do they go to a restaurant and listen to a story about living in a concentration camp from a senior woman who just wants to talk? When do they go to a museum and attempt to recreate a Van Gough as they sit next to an out of work artist who explains each brushstroke? When do they attend or perform in a dinner theater performance?

Many children in traditional schools are not socially engaged. They are hiding, coasting, and out of fear, conforming. Put them in a setting outside of school, and many of them struggle to hold conversations with people outside of their age group or immediate social group. They find it difficult to make friends, or to ask questions, or to make decisions because at school those things have been structured for them. At this point, I need proof that school is the best place for children. Period.

Q. Are you able to work?

I work more now than I did as a teacher. I have two jobs and  up until very recently, I was also running a business. I am lucky (or crazy) because I work from home. It’s hard and exhausting, but I am getting the hang of it thanks to several planners and insomnia.

On another note, you do need to ensure that your lifestyle will work for homeschooling and that you are willing to make changes as needed. If you have to work outside the home, then you need to have a plan in place. If your child is a “spirited child” as is my daughter, you need to have some behavior strategies in place. If you work from home, you need a clear division of time and space.

Q. I know you have experience as an educator. I would imagine a deterrent for many parents considering homeschooling is that they don’t have experience as an educator or perhaps they don’t even have the credentials of a traditional educator (e.g., a Bachelors and/or Masters degree). Do you think this is a reasonable barrier? Do you think someone without a background in education or advanced degrees can be a successful homeschooler? What qualities do you think make for a successful homeschooler?

While I have a Bachelor of Science in English and a Master of Science in Teaching Adolescence Education Grades 7-12, you do not need a degree to homeschool. Think of it this way, if you don’t have faith in your ability to research or relearn concepts after your elementary school education, then why would you trust the system that educated you to educate your child? With that said, what you need is patience (which I promise you will develop over time), a library card, personal homeschooling goals, the ability to research, two or three homeschooling families that you can speak to and maybe get together with, and determination. Respect the process of learning and trust that you know what is best for your child. Allow you child to speak his/her truth and be prepared to revamp when things don’t work.

You do not need a degree to homeschool. Think of it this way, if you don’t have faith in your ability to research or relearn concepts after your elementary school education, then why would you trust the system that educated you to educate your child? With that said, what you need is patience (which I promise you will develop over time), a library card, personal homeschooling goals, the ability to research, two or three homeschooling families that you can speak to and maybe get together with, and determination.

Q. What criteria would you use in determining whether your child is a good candidate for homeschooling?

[H]omeschooling is only as good as the parent. Children are flexible. Most children do well in homeschooling because individualized learning takes into account their strengths and weaknesses. Have a plan for what you are doing (not a lesson but just a general idea of what you are trying to accomplish). As long as they are engaged, they are learning.  I think there is a method for every child as long as you are willing to look for it. You have to pay attention to your child. It’s important that you know your child’s learning style. Take a parenting course or read some books about different learning styles and teaching methods.

Q. If you can, can you speak to addressing the needs of multiple children? How have you seen homeschoolers manage the needs of many children of different ages?

While this is not something I struggle with (the joys of an only child), I am in a homeschooling group with several large families. The older children help teach, the younger ones, and I’ve seen it help. Also, young children learn a lot from just being around others who are learning. Even with an only child, I can tell you that it is important to have a system set up that is conducive to your family. Trial and error is the only way!

Q. Have you encountered any obstacles or setbacks? How did you overcome?

When I left teaching, we took a rather large pay cut and trying to survive on one income was hard in New York. It’s why we moved to Arizona, but things were just as hard out here. We almost put her in school while I worked to get my business off the ground and my husband looked for a job that wouldn’t suck his soul out through a straw! Money issues are the hardest, and they trickle down into the actual fabric of the marriage, so my husband and I were fighting a lot.

Then, of course, there are issues with balance, hormones, self-doubt, and lessons, curricula, and projects that completely bomb.  Academically, my worst mistake was with math. I shied away from it because it wasn’t my strongest subject, but I relearned as I was teaching. We developed a strong skills set together. I realized that my worry slowed her down. I thought that I needed to drill math facts, but this year I made the decision to push her to her grade level and we have been VERY successful!

I’m not the best at handling my stress, but we roll with everything. My daughter knows that we are real people who problem solve, negotiate, and restructure for the best possible outcome. We talk honestly about what is going on. We create a safe space for our daughter, and she shares how she feels about what is happening.

Homeschooling is becoming more popular, but don’t do it just because you have heard a lot about it. It is hard and stressful and requires a lot of trial and error. You have to be ready to let go of all notions of “school” and focus on learning. They are very different. If you do decide to homeschool, be kind to yourself. It takes a little time to find your groove!

Q. Can you recommend any organizations for support or resources?

I don’t join homeschooling organizations because most homeschooling organizations are religious, and I am not. Look for local homeschooling groups. Meet with them and find one that suits your needs.

Here are some helpful places:

Websites:

Magazine(s):

Books(s):

Q. Any last words of advice to those considering taking this journey?

Honestly, homeschooling is becoming more popular but don’t do it just because you have heard a lot about it. It is hard and stressful and requires a lot of trial and error. You have to be ready to let go of all notions of “school” and focus on learning. They are very different. If you do decide to homeschool, be kind to yourself. It takes a little time to find your groove!

Find out more about Kristina Brooke Daniele and her family’s journey at http://forloveofeducation.com.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Teaching Our Boys About Sexual Assault

We live in a society permissive of the objectification of women and steeped heavily in the culture of rape. Especially in our communities. Not only do I want to raise men who never perpetuate these crimes, I want them to be the type of men who actively stand up against them.

When I was 18, I was sexually assaulted. It was early in my first year of college and I was attending a party off campus with a group of girls I barely knew. A man I didn’t know grabbed and groped me from behind, and when I broke free and tried to defend myself, he and his friends surrounded me.  I was able to run out of the party and get a cab. I cried the whole way back to my dorm.  I have to admit, even now, it feels foolish to call what happened to me sexual assault. It was 1999 and at 18, I just considered it a bad experience.  I assumed it was part of being a woman. By the next morning, I had even decided I was lucky.  It could have been worse. For so many women, it was so much worse.

The fact is, sexual assault is “any type of forced or coerced sexual contact or behavior that happens without consent.” It can include rape, attempted rape, molestation, unwelcome touching, sexual harassment or threats.  According to the Office of Women’s Health, “in the United States, nearly one in five women has been raped and almost half of women have experienced another type of sexual assault.”

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This fall, my husband and I are expecting our third boy. When I found out he was a boy, I have to admit, a small part of me, was relieved.  Though living as a Black man in American society has it’s own risks, I knew I’d never have to worry about them being ogled in the street as adolescents or insulted when they refused to reciprocate a stranger’s advances or be groped as college freshman at a party.  I allowed myself to believe that sexual assault was a “girl problem” and not something my boys would have to worry about.  Recent headlines have proved my comfort misguided again and again.

In many ways, there rests a greater onus on us, boy parents, to make sure the world is a safer place for our girls.  We are obligated to teach our boys accountability, even when no one is holding them accountable.  We are obligated to teach our boys about consent, about boundaries and about respect.  Perhaps just as importantly, we are obligated to teach our boys not to be bystanders.

When people hear I am a mother of three boys, they use adjectives like “crazy” and “wild” to describe what my sons must be like.  They depict my boys as “full of energy” and “hard to control.”  While the energy level of my young boys is undeniable, I am always hesitant to wholeheartedly subscribe.  There is this underlying idea that their gender somehow renders then irrational and unable to regulate their behavior.  I realize this kind of thinking is what contributes to our society’s failure to place accountability on our sons. As if their masculinity makes them incapable of thought or reason.  It’s the same line of thinking that calls a presidential candidates musings about sexual assault “locker room talk” or informs a system that calls a young college student’s vicious rape of an unconscious woman behind a dumpster “20 minutes of action.

I realize now that my misguided idea that I could be “less” worried about my boys when it comes to sexual assault was dangerous. In many ways, there rests a greater onus on us, boy parents, to make sure the world is a safer place for our girls.  We are obligated to teach our boys accountability, even when no one is holding them accountable.  We are obligated to teach our boys about consent, about boundaries and about respect.  We are obligated to teach our boys about self-control and responsibility. Perhaps just as importantly, we are obligated to teach our boys not to be bystanders. We live in a society permissive of the objectification of women and steeped heavily in the culture of rape.  Especially in our communities. Not only do I want to raise men who never perpetuate these crimes, I want them to be the type of men who actively stand up against them.

Now, as a mother, over a decade since I ran from that party in tears, I can’t help but wonder  what conversations the mother of the man who assaulted me had with him when he was a boy. What conversations the mothers of the men who stood idly by and witnessed my fear had with them.  What examples their fathers set and how they treated the women around them. I can’t help but wonder if it would have made a difference in the man they chose to be. If it would have spared me the stain of their memory.  I know our children ultimately become adults with free will.  They will inevitably make choices that are contrary to the lessons we have taught them.  However, their free will doesn’t negate our obligation to try.  We all bear the burden of changing the way women are viewed in this society.  That task necessarily begins with doing a better job raising our boys.

 

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Reducing SIDS: What You Need to Know

On October 24, 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics released updated sleep recommendations for a safe infant sleep environment. Here is what you need to know.

Our babies are twice as likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) than babies in other communities. While many factors, including access to newborn education, adequate newborn furniture and bedding, and other socio-economic concerns, could be the blame, it is clear we must take affirmative steps to address this issue.

On October 24, 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics released updated sleep recommendations for a safe infant sleep environment.  Here is what you need to know:

1. Put your baby on his/her back to sleep.

To reduce the risk of SIDS, infants should be placed in a supine position (on the back) for every sleep by every caregiver until the child reaches 1 year of age. If you’re like me, I’m sure you have a Grandma or Auntie who will readily tell you that you slept on your back in 19-whatever and you turned out perfectly fine.  The thing is, now that we know better, we need to do better.

2. Use a firm sleep surface, and keep soft objects and loose bedding away from the infant’s sleep area.

According to the AAP, infants should be placed on a firm sleep surface (e.g., mattress in a safety-approved crib) covered by a fitted sheet with no other bedding or soft objects.  In addition, the crib, bassinet, portable crib, or play yard should conform to the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).  Also, make sure that the product has not been recalled.  If cost is an issue, many local organizations provide low-cost or free cribs or play yards for families with financial constraints.  One organization, Cribs for Kids, has partners all over the United States.  Just pop in your zip code!

As mentioned, when dressing your crib, stick to a fitted sheet. Soft objects such as pillows and pillow-like toys, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, bumper pads and loose bedding, such as blankets and nonfitted sheets, can obstruct an infant’s nose and mouth. Believe it or not, swaddling does not reduce the risk of SIDS. There is a high risk of death if a swaddled infant is placed in or rolls to the prone (tummy down) position. According to the AAP, “infant sleep clothing, such as wearable blankets, [are] preferable to blankets and other coverings to keep the infant warm while reducing the chance of head covering or entrapment that could result from blanket use.”

 3. Avoid overheating.

The AAP provides, “infants should be dressed appropriately for the environment, with no greater than 1 layer more than an adult would wear to be comfortable in that environment.”  Signs of overheating include sweating or the infant’s chest feeling hot to touch.

4. Share a room, but not a bed.

The AAP recommends that infants sleep in the parents’ room, close to the parents’ bed, but on a separate surface designed for infants, ideally for the first year of life.  The AAP stated, “there is evidence that sleeping in the parents’ room but on a separate surface decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50%.” The safest place for an infant to sleep is on a separate sleep surface designed for infants close to the parents’ bed.  With my boys, I was a big fan of the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper.  They have a mini version if you are tight on space. I found this sleeper particularly useful while nursing and recovering from my c-sections.

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5. Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.

The AAP notes that studies have reported a protective effect of pacifiers on the incidence of SIDS.  The protective effect of the pacifier is observed even if the pacifier falls out of the infant’s mouth. Go figure!

6. Give your baby supervised, awake tummy time.

According to the AAP, “supervised, awake tummy time is recommended to facilitate development and to minimize development of positional plagiocephaly” (that flat spot on your baby’s head).  You can find really cute tummy time mats/toys on Amazon and at Toys R Us that make tummy time far less burdensome on your tiny humans.

7. Breastfeeding is recommended to reduce SIDS.

According to the AAP, breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS. The AAP recommends moms breastfeed exclusively or feed with expressed milk for at least 6 months.

8. Avoid smoke exposure, alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth.

There is an increased risk of SIDS with prenatal and postnatal exposure to smoking, alcohol or illicit drug use.

9. Get regular prenatal care.

There is a lower risk of SIDS for infants whose mothers obtain regular prenatal care.

 

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Kicking it Old School: Challenging Your Kids to Be Screen-Free

On October 21, 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced new recommendations for media use. Here are few old school ways to help cope with reduced screen time while not sacrificing the “break” media provides.

On October 21, 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced new recommendations for media use. Here is the quick and dirty:

  • For children younger than 18 months, the AAP recommends avoiding use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, the AAP recommends limiting screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
  • For children ages 6 and older, the AAP recommends placing consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.

In conjunction with HealthyChildren.org, the AAP also created a Family Media Use Plan Tool, that allows parents to come up with a healthy diet of media depending on their age.

While these recommendations are a highly-anticipated update to the stringent media use recommendations of the past, if you are anything like me, they are scary.  Sometimes plopping my kids in front of the television or electronic device provides a well-needed respite after a long day at work, or a chance to use the bathroom or take a shower without my kids constantly asking me what I’m doing or what I plan on making for dinner.  The thing is, although my husband and I set limits on screen use in our house, I always feel guilty watching my kids zone out in front of a screen instead of engaging in the world around them.  No matter how educational I tell myself the program is.  Here are few old school ways to help cope with reduced screen time while not sacrificing the “break” media provides:

1. Solitary Toys and Screen-less Electronics

Did you know they still sell Rubiks Cubes?  While its popularity was a little ahead of my time, I still remember my older brother losing hours trying to figure out that little cube.  A few years ago, my eldest received one as a gift and despite the inevitable frustration, he loved it.  Solitary toys like the Rubick’s Cube are often a great way to engage an active mind.  While my youngest isn’t quite as interested in solving the cube, he loves Magna Doodles and Etch-A-Sketch which also allow him to work independently and still engage his mind. Our kids also enjoy toys like Simon and Flash Pads which are electronic but screenless.  Both are puzzle games and boost memory skills.  We regularly pack these toys for long car rides or for appointments when waiting quietly is an expectation.  The funny thing is, they are so rare, they usually attract a hoard of kids around them who would rather play with the old school toys than their own iPads!

2. Coloring/Activity Books

The great thing about coloring and activity books is that you can really find them anywhere and to match any budget.  Before a long car ride, I load up on a few from Target, my local grocery store or chain pharmacy but you can load up at places like the Dollar Tree for even less. My kids really enjoy Highlights Hidden Pictures, Look and Find Books or Where’s Waldo which give them a chance to work towards a goal.  You can find more academic geared activity books at Barnes and Noble. B&N also has drawing books which are great alternatives to coloring books for older kids. Crosswords and Sudoko for Kids are also great if your kid is up for a challenge. I usually find those at my local grocery store in the magazine isle or check out line.

We also have a 4-drawer plastic storage cabinent in our kitchen, that I purchased for $15 at Target, that I try to keep fully stocked with crayons, markers and construction paper.  I’m a little ashamed of how many times my husband and I have said “go draw something” but you’d be surprised at how well it works.  They love drawing.  They even created a comic book together.  If you’re kids need a little more direction, give them an assignment (e.g., a picture of Grandma or a snowball fight).  I call a wall in our house the “Art Gallery” and regularly display their work to show my pride.

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3. Books and Journaling

A few summers ago, I read Baratunde Thurston’s book “How to Be Black.” While I enjoyed many aspects of the book, one take-away was his amazing mother’s commitment to encouraging his education outside of school.  She would take him on trips and give him independent reading and writing assignments.  Totally taking a cue from Baratunde (my kids will thank him one day), I regularly assign my kids reading and writing assignments.  This summer, my nine year old read Wonder by R.J. Palacio and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and had to write weekly essays on themes and reactions to the book.  I made sure to listen to them on audio so I could engage with him about the books, but I also found awesome questions on google prepared by other teachers and parents (I believe Ivan also had discussion questions at the end of the book).  If I needed some “me” time or had to get something done, I would just ask him to go to his room or sit at the table and work on a prepared assignment.

With my six year old, it wasn’t quite as easy.  He is at the age where he still works better collaboratively so independent assignments tend to tire him out.  For him, I assigned short reading assignments (thanks, Google) or created mini-scenarios and asked him to write reactions to them.  For example, the assignment would ask him how he would help a friend who was being picked on by other members of his class or require him to create a list of things he would do to prepare for his new baby brother.  These short assignments were less taxing on him but still allowed him to work independently.

4. Scavenger Hunts

I work from home a great deal.  While I try to get the majority of my work done while my kids are sleeping or at school, sometimes they are wide awake and ready to be entertained.  When I know they are going to be at home and I know I may be distracted for a block of time, I coordinate a scavenger hunt throughout the house.  I hide toys and household items in safe places, compile a list of the items and give it to them to find.  When they were smaller, I confined them to one room but as they have gotten older, I spread things out throughout the house (leaving a few places – like Mom and Dad’s room – off limits).   If you’re like me, just don’t forget to make a mental note of where you hid things. I learned that lesson the hard way.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.