#RaisingBrilliance: Seven Early Morning Pep Talks For Your Kids

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Each morning before I drop my kids off at school, I try to give them a pep talk. My goal is to have the last thing they hear from me be something positive and uplifting. I used to just tell them, “Mommy loves you. Have a great day!” But they started to tune that out after a while, running into the building before I was even finished! So now I switch it up! Here’s some of my favorite pep talks to give them, depending on what they have going on that day. (Yes, I’ve actually said these to my kids. I wouldn’t lie to you.)

Share your favorite in the comments:

On trying their best:

“All I want from you, and all I have ever wanted, is for you to try your best. Because if you try your best, you can’t lose.”

On making themselves proud:

“I know you think about what your dad and I expect from you, but it’s really about what you expect from yourself. Work up to your own goals and expectations. Go make yourself proud.”

On trying new things:

“No one is born knowing how to do everything. Everyone was once a beginner. The only way to discover what you’re good at is to try new things.”

On facing their fears:

“Fear is a natural part of life. I get scared all the time. Your classmates do too. But you have to take a deep breath and do the thing you’re scared to do. Great things are on the other side of fear.”

On being secure in who they are:

“Celebrate who you are. There is no one else who is quite like you and that is a beautiful thing.”

On knowing how much they are loved:

“I love you to the end of the universe, you know that?”

On knowing the importance of a good work ethic:

“Talent is important. And you have it. You’re both naturally smart. But it will only get you halfway to where you want to go. You must put in the work in order to reach your full potential.”

 Do you give your children pep talks in the morning? What do you usually tell them? 

 

Boy Or Girl: Is It Easier To Raise Sons Or Daughters In Today’s Society?

by Mike Mitchum

Back in the day, parents didn’t have the luxury of having an ultrasound to tell them the sex of their growing fetus.  Because of this advance, a conversation was born between my fiancé and I as we anxiously await the arrival of our child.  I had been singing the “I want a boy” song to anyone who asked about my preference.  It wasn’t until she told me that she didn’t want me to be disappointed if we waited for the child to be born only to find that it was a girl that I realized I might have been sending the wrong message.

My first wish, as I’m sure is true with any parent, is to have a healthy baby. I think I put so much energy into saying I wanted boy that it translated to, “I absolutely do not want a girl.” If we have a baby girl, I won’t be shocked or disappointed.  I mean it’s a 50/50 chance right?  I can tell you now, that she will be a daddy’s girl and that she will be absolutely spoiled rotten!  Now if we had a panda, I’d be more than a little confused, but I think that’s a far shot off.

Anyhow, even as I sang my song there was a narrative that played in my head.  It took that comment from my fiancé to make me realize that the narrative had never come into the wild, so here it goes:

We live in a hyper sexualized world where women are constantly objectified and false standards of beauty and worth are currency.  I think that the challenge with raising a girl in this culture is what makes me want a boy more than anything else.

At the same time, I know that there are also positive forces and movements to help women and girls navigate these treacherous seas.  Also, as parents, we would do our very best to educate our daughter and help her to develop a healthy sense of self-respect, but we would be battling a lot of outside forces.  You can’t scroll through your Facebook timeline or even watch daytime TV without seeing booty cheeks hanging out or highlighted in trendy leggings or some other such imagery.  That spills out into the real world in the form of teenage boys and grown men who see women as potential conquests instead of potential queens.

With this internal river raging, the constant question that whirlpools in my head is, “How do I protect our little girl from becoming the misguided object of some hormonal youth’s attention?”  It may sound like the lazy dad way out, but I think it would be easier to educate a son against following that behavior than to educate all the other little boys against treating/looking at our little girl in such a way.

My only real worry about having a girl is putting up with assholes as she grows up.  Now, I know that eventually my little girl would grow into a woman, find a beau who cherishes her very breath, marry and begin a family of her own.  However, I anticipate that there will be a lot of dumb-assness to thwart before she gets there.

What do you think?  Am I thinking too much about this or is there validity in my concerns?  I can’t be the first person to have this thought.  What does your S/O think of this topic?

#Blackish Episode 4: “Crazy Mom” – Nailing The Truth About The Mom Life & Gender Roles

I was a little skeptical when I first saw the trailer for ABC’s new comedy, “Black-ish.” It looked a little corny, and I wasn’t sure how much Anthony Anderson I could take weekly. He’s a funny guy for sure, but would the material be his style? Would it work?

Episode four of Blackish is what sealed the deal for me. In this episode, “Crazy Mom,” marketing executive dad Andre (Anthony Anderson) tells his lovely doctor wife Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) that he will take on all her duties for a week.

First up: making two dozen cupcakes for the twins’ class. Instead of making them from scratch or at least picking up a couple from the grocery store, Andre goes to where? The liquor store. (Was I the only one who thought, they sell cupcakes at the liquor store? Must be a nice neighborhood.)

It was such a “YES THAT IS WHAT MY HUSBAND WOULD DO” moment. He’s not going to pull out the cake flour or even a box of Betty Crocker. Off to the store, with no hesitation! Ain’t no scouring Pinterest for “creative cupcake recipes.”

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And when Rainbow told her husband, “Moms do everything and no one ever notices,” and how she pulls a second shift once she gets home from work, I damn near rolled off the couch. Yes, speak to my life, Black-ish writers! Speak to my life! 

It was real dialogue about real issues facing working women. As much as I love Modern Family, one aspect of the show that bugged me for years (before Claire took a job at her father’s business) was that none of the women on the show worked. Stay-at-home moms definitely need to be represented and there’s no denying that Claire’s version of a SAHM was always, always busy. But dang, for a supposedly “modern” family, they sure were not representing for the working mom (a phrase, by the way, that I hate).

But I loved hearing about the second shift and wondered how many women were giving their husbands the same arm punch I did when Rainbow delivered this line:

“We both have huge jobs. When I come home from mine, from you know, saving lives and whatnot, I start a whole other second huge job. When you come home, you play video games….There’s like a thousand invisible things I do around here that aren’t even on your radar.”

In a later scene, Andre was late to a meeting after handling some kids’ stuff.  “Family comes first,” his colleagues said, giving him an approving head nod. A few seconds later a female co-worker comes into the meeting late with the same excuse and was reprimanded for not being professional.

MESSAGE!  

Black-ish’s “Crazy Mom” episode reminded me of a day, early in my marriage, where I had enough. I had been working 14-hour days, would come home and check homework, make dinner, fill out school forms, pack lunches, bathe the children and read them stories before bed.

In the midst of doing all this, I looked up and said out loud, “Who decided I was in charge???”

To me, I see our family as an endless to-do list. Wash clothes, double-check backpacks, volunteer in the classroom, etc. For my husband and a lot of men I know, they see their family as just that: family, or “those other people that I live with.” Not necessarily “things to do.”

Is that good or bad? I don’t know. But I’m grateful to Black-ish for resurrecting the conversation.

Did you catch last night’s episode? What did you think?

Making My Net: The Life Of A Single Mom In Medical School

MeganThruston[1]by Megan Thruston

“Mamaaaa. Heyyy Mamaaa! I need fresh water with ice! HEY MAMAAA! It’s morning time!”

I glanced at my phone and saw that it was indeed morning time. In fact it was already 6:10 a.m., which meant that I had overslept, though I hardly felt refreshed since I had been up studying until almost 2:00 a.m.

After a few minutes of silence, I heard the soft thudding of feet on the hallway carpet. A moment later, a smiling face surrounded by a halo of wild curly hair appeared at the end of my bed.

“I opened the door all by myself!” my daughter announced, beaming with smug self­-satisfaction.

While this development had some undesirable implications for my privacy, I knew it was another critical step toward independence for her, and perhaps for me as well. Juggling a young toddler’s needs alongside the demands of medical school is no easy task, and I have come to appreciate even the smallest acts of self-sufficiency whenever they appear.

Thinking back to this time a year ago, my daughter and I had just arrived in Portland. She was 14 months old and though she could walk and talk, she was still a baby in most respects: she needed multiple naps a day, she nursed every few hours, she dissolved into tears at the slightest provocation. Returning to school meant that I would no longer be around to cater to her needs 24/7, a fact which filled me with anxiety and guilt at the time. What if she was traumatized by the abrupt separation? What if she hated daycare? What if she loved daycare and didn’t want to come home? What if she liked her caretakers more than me?

In addition to concerns about my baby, I had serious doubts about my own ability to survive in this new environment. I had spent so much time reassuring everyone else in my life about my plans that I hadn’t had the chance to reflect on whether this was still really what I wanted to do. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that I wasn’t qualified to go to medical school, let alone to go to medical school while singlehandedly caring for a small child. As a stay­-at­-home mom with a background in psychology and special education research, I hardly seemed prepared for such a big undertaking.

Now as I enter MS2, I am happy to report that most of those worries have subsided. Over the past year I watched as my daughter blossomed from a clingy baby into a vivacious little girl who can open doors and do jigsaw puzzles and give startlingly specific instructions on how she wants her oatmeal prepared (hint: don’t even THINK about putting bananas in there). One need only spend a few minutes with her to see that she hasn’t been traumatized by this transition; in fact, she’s thriving.

As for me, I managed to pass my first year courses and gained a profound new self-­confidence in the process. Overlooking the chronic sleep deprivation and occasional lapse in personal hygiene, I actually think my first year of medical school was among the most rewarding in my academic career.

I know that I have only just started down the road to becoming a physician and that the worst is likely yet to come given that I still have rotations and residency looming on the horizon. Even so, I will continue on this giant leap of faith because I am confident now that the net will appear, even if I have to make it myself.

In addition to being the single mother of a very spirited toddler, Megan is currently in her second year of medical school at Oregon Health & Science University. Outside of school, her hobbies include photography, cold showers, making pillow forts, and knowing all of the words to Frozen. Visit her online at OHSU’s StudentSpeak blog.

Read more about being a mom in college

in our “Student Mama” series.

I Need A Vacation

Can’t every mother say this? If this is how you feel (“Oh, Lawd, please take me away to a place with no kids, delicious food and a nice comfy bed”), say “Aye.”

AYE!

We know how to put in a good day’s work, don’t we? A couple weeks ago, I asked moms on the YML Facebook page what time they go to bed and what time they wake up. Y’all are averaging six hours of sleep a night. Which, to me, sounds good at first, until you realize that a good eight hours of sleep makes you feel like a brand new woman.

As moms, I admire us and how hard we go to make sure our kids have everything they need. There’s always some way to conjure up a little extra energy for storytime, for a bubble bath, for checking homework, for making dinner. We are incredible and often we don’t hear it enough, which contributes to how tired and run down we feel.

I know I’m tired. And all things considered, I’ve got a pretty good support system. So for all of you who are making this thing work and you’ve got no one to lean on…I’m rooting for you. I’m praying for you. I’m hoping you get that vacation very soon.

One thing that I’ve been trying to do is have more adventures. Now, I don’t necessarily mean I’ll be jetting off overseas any time soon but I’m trying to get more of the unexpected in my life.

Sometimes it’s just the monotony of life that gets me. Wake up, make breakfast, get the kids to school, work, work, work, pick the kids up, make dinner, check homework, showers, storytime, bed, work, work, work, sleep. You feel like a hamster on a wheel and you are just dying to get off!

But this is no good. I’m setting myself up for failure. I’m going to have to go “Being Mary Jane” and put Post-Its of inspirational quotes all over my bedroom to keep myself motivated!

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Me and my boo #10YearsStrong

This past weekend I actually accepted an invitation (thanks Chic!) and I took my hubby to the “Best Of Cleveland” party. I fixed my hair, got a last-minute babysitter, threw on some heels and left! And we had a great time.

It made me remember how much fun there is to be had in life and that motherhood should only enhance my sense of adventure, not diminish it. I’m declaring this my season for fun and taking chances and trying new things. I want a full, well-rounded life and that starts with me taking charge and doing things that help me feel whole. Who’s with me?

STYLE FILES: I’m Obsessed With African Prints

I used to blame my lack of fashion sense on the fact that I wore uniforms to school from K-12 and then I went off to college and promptly got pregnant. So there has never been a point in my life where I devoted time to developing a personal style. I thought it was something that would just happen on its own, but I’m knock-knock-knocking on 30 and it’s becoming more obvious that this is something I’m going to have to actively work on.

Luckily, I’ve gotten bitten by the style bug! I look at stylish women like Gabi and I wonder, “How did they know that would go together and would complement their body type???? How did they know??” I’m like a three-year-old over here, wondering why they don’t make Garanimals for adults (mix and match and let’s go!).

My latest style obsession is African prints. They can be bold or subtle, but they exude power and confidence no matter what the design. I love how pulled together they can make you appear, when really all you did was throw on some clothes. Here’s some of my favorites that I’ve seen over the past couple weeks. Let me know which one you think I should get!

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Which look are you feeling the most?

 

 

GIVEAWAY: Four-Pack Of Tickets To I-X Center’s “Trick Or Trick Street,” A Halloween Extravaganza

It’s back! The annual Trick or Treat Street is coming to Northeast Ohio for four special days leading up to Halloween! It’s an all-day Halloween event for kids 10 and under.

The date this year are October 18, 19, 25, and 26. The I-X Center opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 7 p.m. on Sundays, giving you plenty of time to come in, ride the attractions, see the performers, grab your candy and make it home before everyone gets too tired. Parents can bring their kids in costume to Trick or Treat through 12 themed candy stations, ride the Soaring Eagle Zipline, ride ponies, eat great food, and enjoy the fun amusement rides and attractions!

My favorite thing about the event is that it’s indoors, so rain or shine, the kids can have a great time! Here’s a few photos of my kids from previous years’ Trick or Treat Street:

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If you are in the area and would like a chance to win a four-pack of tickets, simply comment on this post for a chance to win! The winner will be announced on Tuesday, October 14. Good luck!

[In The Kitchen] 20-Minute Shrimp And Cheesy Grits Recipe

Growing up, I always ate my grits with butter and sugar. Being on #TeamSugarGrits meant that I turned my nose up at savory grits, i.e. cheesy grits.

Earlier this year I went out to dinner with my husband, saw creole shrimp and grits on the menu and decided to give it a try. Let me tell you: it was like the seas parted! Ever since then, I’ve eaten it at every opportunity. Last night, however, I decided to try my hand at making them myself.

Y’all.

Y’all.

Amaaaazing. So amazing. Had me singing like John Legend. “‘Cause allllll of me, loves alllll of you.” Just look at it:

 

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20 Minute Shrimp And Grits (With Sausage!)

 

Prepare the grits according to package directions. After the grits are done, add 1-2 teaspoons butter and 1/3 cup cheese (cheddar or Parmesan). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

While the grits are cooking, season 1/2 lb to a 1 lb of shrimp with Cajun seasoning and sprinkle two tablespoons of flour on top. Let it marinate.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, fry 1/2 chopped sausage until crispy. Remove from the skillet, and add in 2 cups chopped veggies (equal portions onion, celery and bell pepper). Saute for 8 minutes or until soft. Add shrimp to skillet and stir.

After the shrimp is cooked through, slowly pour in 1/2 cup of chicken broth. (You can use vegetable broth or seafood stock if you have it.) Let simmer for 3 minutes or until thickened. Season to taste with additional Cajun seasoning mix, or salt and pepper.

Divide the grits into separate bowls and top with the shrimp mixture. Serve immediately with a few dashes of hot sauce and green onions (optional). 

There you have it! Super simple and a party for your tastebuds. If you like it, don’t be afraid to put a “Pin” on it!

Must-Watch: Tracee Ellis Ross On Defining Beauty And Sexuality For Ourselves

I’m quickly becoming a Tracee Ellis Ross stan.

As I look to focus more on me (figuring out my personal style, finding a hobby, etc.), I have been following Ms. Ross’ Instagram and have gotten so inspired by the way she presents herself to the world. She is stylish and goofy and well-read and, well, pretty! Her shoe game is ridiculous (have you seen these? OMG, I want them) and she is not afraid to just be herself, no matter who she is around. It’s refreshing.

About a week ago, she appeared on The Breakfast Club to discuss her new show, Blackish. During the interview, one of the hosts tried to show Tracee a video of women who were missing their edges (here it is) and instead of laughing like many celebrities would do, she educated them about what women go through in the process of trying to be desirable in this society:

We have told women that there is a standard of beauty that makes them think that they have to do things to themselves that they aren’t naturally to look like something they’re not, as if who they are is not beautiful. So women have been manipulating their hair, their asses, their breasts, their lips, and all of this for some standard of beauty that is not natural, and as if we’re these airbrushed creatures that are just an object for desire and that is not what women are. Women are way fuller creatures and beings than that, our sexuality is something that we should own and hold and share as we choose, when we choose, not because it’s the way to get love and be loved…and that is a part of that.”

Ooooh, preach, Tracee!!! Here is the video, because I do think you need to actually hear the words to get the full impact:

#RaisingBrilliance: Where To Go When Your Child Needs Extra Help

 

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The teacher

Consider your child’s teacher your partner on this journey. You have questions? Ask them. You have concerns? Voice them. If your teacher has concerns about your child’s performance in a certain area, don’t be timid. Ask what you can do at home to help them improve. The teacher might send home extra work (like my son’s first grade teacher has done with him) or might point you to a community resource that will help. Either way, be proactive about building that relationship with your child’s teacher so that if a problem does arise, it’s easier to focus on the solution.

Education.com

I’ve been a big fan of Education.com for years now, back when my daughter (now in third grade) was in preschool and I was teaching her letters and numbers. They have great worksheets, games, activities, and more to help your child get a little more practice outside of school. You can do it together and have fun!

Local library

Librarians are full of knowledge and if you only give them a friendly nod and a wave as you browse the shelves, you’re missing out. If your child is a struggling reader, for example, librarians often know the best books to hook kids and turn them into fluent readers. They can also help you select books that are appropriate for their level and find books on the subjects in which your child might struggle. Librarians are also great if you have older children who might need help at the high school level. (Here’s a few more reasons why the library rocks.)

YouTube

What really surprised me this year is how many YouTube links my children’s teachers are sending home. A simple search on any problem you might be having (“algebraic equations” or “intermediate Spanish“) will yield thousands of videos.