Wednesday, September 17

Special Needs Parenting - Superstar Miss O

by: Ajike Akande

For sometime on this here blog, I have been touching on what is going on with Miss O and G-Dog, without really getting into the nitty gritty.  I just haven’t felt like I could or should totally “go there” but I think it’s about time that I start talking about and naming my girls’ challenges. I recently started following Diary of a Mom, a blog written by a mom with two awesome girls, one of whom is autistic.  Sometimes I find the Diary mom way too perfect.   She never complains about the challenges of raising a child with special needs but focuses on how she manages the challenges.  She seemingly advocates effortlessly for her daughter and celebrates her beautifully.  She’s also a fabulous phone photographer and captures her ridiculously beautiful daughters perfectly.  A little bit, I hate her. 

The point is, though, her daily stories help me see my little monkeys in a different way.  Her posts make me feel less frustrated and more loving.  They make me want to do better as a mom to kids with challenges.  And for reasons not clear to me right now, her blog makes me feel as though I have a right to take up some space in the corner of the blogosphere occupied by parents of kids with special needs. 

This won’t be my last post about raising kiddos with special needs, but it’s not what I plan to write about all the time.  I also need to be clear that all children, regardless of their needs, are totally frustrating and stress inducing (and also awesome) so just because some of my children have special needs does not mean I won’t complain about how annoying they all can be.  If it makes you feel any better, I am 100% sure that they will (do?) complain about me and Wife just as much.  I should also say that I’m not a parent who feels like our children’s challenges are a blessing.  The children are a true blessing; their challenges are not.  You won’t hear me saying that I wouldn’t change anything about them, ‘cuz I would.  I would take away the part of their brain that makes a seam in their socks feel like a needle.  I would take away the part of them that makes surprises no fun at all.  I would take away the part that makes it hard for them to persevere when they are trying to explain what they want or what they think.  And while that absence of those things would make parenting them easier, I wouldn’t take away the tough stuff for me, I would do it for them.  Our Miss O is the happiest person you’ll ever meet but there are parts of every single day that are excruciating for her.  Nobody wants that for their child.  G-Dog has to push through a whole lot of worries which make her so angry and so defiant, to find her happy.  I feel for her and wish it were different. 

To write about both girls and their special needs, would take a really long time, so I’ll start with Miss O who is having the hardest time these days. 

Almost two years ago, Miss O went through a developmental and cognitive assessment as well as genetic testing.  In the end, we were told that her genetics were beautiful (thank you Mom and Dad and Sperm Donor Guy), that her results landed on the diagnostic cusp of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and that she will likely have a learning disability based on early cognitive testing.  In regards to an ASD diagnosis, we were told that girls are often diagnosed later than boys and that we may find that as she gets older and the social demands increase, she will meet the diagnostic criteria for ASD.  Watch and see.  When they told us about her results in the cognitive tests, we all agreed that it was too soon to really know anything about any learning difficulties.  It’s a little unfair to test what has definitely not been taught.  Let the child go to school before we decide she has trouble learning! 

But, of course, parents know their kids.  Before her third birthday she had received physical, occupational and speech therapy.  Being the superstar that she is, she took that therapy and told us all where to go when she reached every goal we set within the time we had hoped, but we still had this feeling that our superstar daughter wasn’t like other kids.  With a built in comparison in her twin sister, the differences were hard to ignore.

After being told that she had the characteristics of a child with autism except that she was too social and too interested in sharing her world with those around her, we learned about ways that we could support her.  We confirmed that she has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), learned about issues of sleep and autism and starting using picture schedules and social stories to help her manage daily routines and transitions as well as new outings and experiences better.  We found an amazing school that offers an integrated program with 20% of the class having ASD, communication disorders or other developmental issues. (G-Dog has joined her sister at Yes I Can and we truly believe that both girls are getting a wonderful program that meets their needs.) We carried on as though Miss O had a confirmed ASD diagnosis, because we truly felt that that was what was coming. 

Now, almost two years after Miss O’s initial assessment, we will be heading back to the team of psychologists, therapists and nurses to repeat the assessments.  We are starting to see significant regression and loss of skills in Miss O and she is having greater difficultly getting through the day.  We are seeing our smart, funny child with excellent language skills, who expresses herself well, struggle to communicate.  We are seeing our kind and compassionate child become overwhelmed and behave inappropriately towards others.  Miss O needs more support and we need guidance and an actual diagnosis to ensure that she gets it.

Knowing that the assessment will take place in the next couple of months, I have said to close friends and Wife, that I feel as though we are on the verge of receiving bad news.  I don’t know for sure what this new assessment will reveal but I know in my heart that our awesome, superstar Miss O experiences this world a bit differently and that can be really hard for her.  And while I think the news will be “bad”, like all news, it won’t be a big deal for long.  She’ll be the same kid, that fills and breaks my heart every day, but we will, and most importantly, she will have more information about how to turn down the excruciating and turn up the joy. 

I will definitely share more as we learn more about Miss O.  Before signing off, I have to share this: One of the things that we have discovered about Miss O, is that nothing calms her hurting heart like YouTube videos, specifically Tyler Ward’s acoustic version of Rihanna’s song Umbrella.  After an epic (sorry neighbours) meltdown last Sunday evening we watched the Umbrella video 12 times in a row!  In. A. Row.  It was the only thing that would calm her down.  It was truly remarkable.    So these days, when her calm, and her joy go missing, she finds them in this video.  I actually wrote Tyler Ward a letter thanking him!  He probably won’t respond because, ah, weird mom, but I had to thank him.  He totally saved Sunday! 

Just in case you have misplaced your calm or joy, or you love a good acoustic cover of a pop song (they’re soooo great), here’s the video: 

Oh and here are the lyrics to the song that Miss O, after screaming for 20 minutes, listened to 12 times while cuddling with me with her head on my chest.  I may have cried listening to the lyrics and soaked the dear child’s head.  Just read the lyrics, you would cry too (if it happened to you)!

You had my heart, and we'll never be worlds apart
Maybe in magazines, but you'll still be my star
Baby 'cause in the dark, you can't see shiny cars
And that's when you need me there
With you, I'll always share
Because when the sun shines, we'll shine together
Told you I'll be here forever
Said I'll always be your friend
Took an oath, I'ma stick it out to the end
Now that it's raining more than ever
Know that we'll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella
You can stand under my umbrella 
(Ella ella, eh eh eh)  
Under my umbrella (Ella ella, eh eh eh)  Under my umbrella

XO Ajike  

Wednesday, September 10

Growing Out Of Babyhood

by Ajike Akande

A few months ago I took things up a notch and adopted a little “5 minute (makeup) face” routine.  I have come to truly love rosy cheeks and glossy lips, but I don’t spend the 5 minutes in front of the mirror applying makeup while trying to prevent my children, who are always crowded around me, from dumping multiple shades of blush on the floor, because I believe my beauty lives in a MAC bottle.  I quite like a natural look.  I spend the time because I don’t want the small children I see over the course of a day to be scared off by the dark circles and substantial puff around my eyes.  Quite frankly, it’s not pretty and there is nothing natural about it.  The puffy circles are the result of many years of having less sleep than required.  Sleep deprivation is not natural it’s real but it’s person-made.  Small, young person-made.  My point, because there is one, is that this morning, I should have taken a big pass on the five minutes.  I did some major weeping this morning a few hours after the makeup routine and I just ended up looking like a hot mess!   Here’s why…

This morning, being no different from other mornings I did the face thing and I was looking bright, cheery and totally on top of my sh*t, if I do say so myself.  Once all spiffied up, I packed up The Middles and The Littles to drive them (all of them) to school.  I was taking F-Jammie and Mr. Lee to their first day of Preschool.  For those of you who are just skimming this post, it bears repeating:  F-Jammie and Mr. Lee went to Preschool for the first time today.  Until now, The Littles have been left with one of three babysitters or family.  We have never set them free with other children without a grown person of their own watching over them. 

When they arrived at school and walked into their classroom, they were greeted by their super enthusiastic preschool teachers (You know, the kind of teachers who can smile through anything including a kid peeing their pants while they are holding them on their hip.)  At first my guys were pretty happy.  I told them that I would be back and left the room.  Unfortunately, I made the rookie mistake and stayed in the building - out of sight but in earshot.  When I heard Mr. Lee scream “No! Put me down! No!  I want mommy!” I lost it.  Really, really lost it.  Can we say, ugly crying?  I went over to the two-way mirror, (God’s little gift to the neurotic parent) and took a front row seat to view the movie Mr. Lee Has a Tantrum When He Realizes Mommy is Not Close By.  (Can we just pause and think about who would play the part of me?  Please post any thoughts in the comments.)  I watched him carry on while being held by a smiling, calm teacher.  I watched his twin sister, F-Jammie, follow him and the teacher around the room until he calmed down, which made me cry even more.  She was making sure that her brother was okay.  I wasn’t surprised; she is loving like that.  I felt proud that she showed so much compassion for her brother but also guilty because she felt as though she had to make sure that her sad bro was being taken care of while mommy up and left.  

 Finally the inside voice kicked in – “Leave woman!  Go pee alone, drink coffee while it’s hot, make and finish a phone call!”  I don’t often get time to myself in the middle of the day.   I left the school, still sobbing and called a friend to cry to her.  She reminded me that Mr. Lee and I are both ready for some time apart and that F-Jammie was born with her bags packed for university and her attachment to me is really about the snacks!  After the pep talk, I went for coffee and thought about how the phase of parenting babies is coming to an end.

We have been in the “baby” phase for years.  We never “saw the light”.  We were fortunate to be able to plan and have our children very close together.  Please note that these plans were made assuming that we would have one baby at a time.  Please also note that I am aware that we went for another round even after we had evidence suggesting that the assumption of one baby at a time was weak.  Point is, after asking, “What the actual f%&k were we thinking?” about a million times, we settled into the all baby all the time, way of life.  Seven years later, nobody is breast-feeding (Breast fondling – always; breast-feeding – never.)  Daytime diapers and cribs are a thing of the past.  Scooters are increasingly the mode of transportation and the stroller more often gets left at home.  Things are changing.  Praise God, things are changing.  Also, I totally hate change. 

After just over an hour, drinking hot coffee and thinking about my changing life, I went back to the school to pick up The Middles and The Littles.  These are the happy, suddenly older, proud-of-themselves, sibling-loving faces that came through the door. 
I have felt drained, the way you do after a good cry, all day.  The makeup has been wiped away by the waterworks and I can’t seem to lose the home-sicky feeling in my gut.  I guess the home-sicky feeling makes sense.  When we are home, we are surrounded by the familiar, what we are used to.  I am used to being a mommy to babies.  I have never had babies grow out of babyhood without another baby, two actually, to take their place.  I am losing a little bit of what is familiar.  It really is time, but I still feel a little home-sicky.  I wonder if my babies, The Littles, feel the same.

XO Ajike

P.S.  I am looking for excuses not to go grocery shopping the two mornings a week that The Littles are at school.  Who wants to meet up for hot coffee? 

Wednesday, September 3

School Is In Session

by Ajike Akande

Where I live, this is the first week back at school.  As a mother of many, including, three school-agers, it will come as no surprise that this blog post is about sending The Big and The Middles as well as Wife back to school.  I could share all the details of everyone’s first week, but wow, that’d be a snore fest so instead I am sharing a letter that I have written to The Big’s grade two teacher.  She will receive a copy of this letter shortly after I post this, so if you think it’s totally weird and inappropriate please let me know ASAP ‘cuz eeek, don’t want to be weirdo mom. 

Here it is…

Dear Ms. P,

You did it!  You survived the first days of the 2014/15 school year.  I stood back watching you on the first morning wearing your back-to-school best, doling out hugs - down low to the bigger, but still so little grade twos that you taught in grade one, and up high to the parents who were feeling excited to be sending their kids back to school in general but especially excited to be sending their kids back to you in particular.  You looked so happy and bursting with excitement about the fresh start that the new year offers.  I wanted to tell you that I recognize your bright expression and genuine joy to see your new and returning students.  I recognize it because that used to be me greeting bouncing kiddos and their parents.  Honestly, I felt a little jealous.  Don’t get me wrong; I know that day one is the beginning of a teacher-student honeymoon that if you’re lucky, lasts about three weeks.  Eventually the kids will stop being on their best behaviour.  So will you.  But the hugs, nervous energy and excitement are so real and truly set the tone for the year.  I am thrilled for all the members of the Room 22 crew.  I know that you will do all you can as crew leader to create a brilliant, safe, bad-ass (in the best way) community. 

Before you slip into the school routine, I want to tell you some things about my little dude who is in your class for the second time, this time as a big grade two kid.  Our Z absolutely ADORES you.  Some time around the end of July, he stopped accidentally calling me Ms. P!  He has been attending school since he was 18 months old and I have never seen him respond to a teacher the way he has responded to you.  His teachers have always enjoyed him and he has always been genuinely happy to learn with and from them, but with you, it’s different.  When you started teaching his class last January Z, almost immediately, saw himself in you.  You, a black (like him) woman with Caribbean roots, who loves music and dancing, hooked him right away.  You laughed at his antics and were charmed by his unbelievable ability to tell a good story.  You nagged him when he didn’t do his best (which was far too often) and sent home homework when he didn’t complete his work because let’s face it, he is more interested in being social than in completing math worksheets.  You consistently responded with genuine warmth whether you were disappointed in him or whether he “made your heart sing.”  You did this better than me and his mama.  He noticed and he appreciated you for it.      

I don’t think Z was aware that, once speaking to you and realizing that you somehow, even though you are not yet a mama, intrinsically understood how hard it can be to raise a black boy in North America at this time, I too felt comfortable with you.  I was relieved when I discovered that you would support my tough black mom approach as well as my insistence that my little guy has a chance to learn in a safe community with love, respect and fun (yes, fun) at its core.   

Our Z (your Z) is still squirrelly.  Seriously, seriously squirrelly.  He still doesn’t love the “learny” part of school.  He will talk your ear off and possibly drive you to drink!  The other kids will love him and think he’s hilarious.  This is extremely important to him so don’t be surprised if his perseverance and focus is most frequently exhibited when he is trying to entertain his classmates.  But if you bring your most dramatic self to the lessons you are teaching he will hang on your every word.  If you stay close by and be his anchor he’ll get his work done – eventually, because he doesn’t just want approval from his classmates, he wants yours too.  If you take dance breaks with the class and let him be your office runner he’ll still be squirrelly but he’ll get some of the movement that he craves. 

I know that teaching is one of the hardest jobs out there.  I know that your class is full of kids who need all sorts of things to make their days successful.  Z is one of many.  I also know that our boy will frustrate you.  You’ll want to raise your voice and send him out of the class.  You’ll want to complain to your colleagues about this very capable kid who doesn’t always apply himself and focus.  I know all of this.  I know because I know my Z and I have taught my share of Zs.  When your patience is low, tell him and then tell me.  I am always happy to discuss our little guy.  I’m happy to let you vent a little and then I am happy to make a plan to support him so that he can do better.  Your job is to support Mr. Z at school and it is our job to support him at home.  I believe that it is also my job to be one of the people who supports you in your efforts to support our boy.  I’m on your team.  You’re on mine.  We’re on his. 

This is going to be a long, maybe hard, hopefully awesome year.  In preparation I’ve purchased all the wine.  (Let me know if you need any!)  Alright, Ms. P here we go; let’s do this!

Friday, August 29

Miley Cyrus VMA Stunt Raised Big Money Online For Homeless Youth Non-Profit

Miley Cyrus Showed off her real "assets" this time at the VMA's and shined a light  on the issue of poverty and homelessness in America. Even though her date has legal issues that are now out in the media and some people consider it just another PR stunt. Miley did a good thing that celebrities should imitate often. In Writer Carrie Arnold's post "I Dream Of A Selfie Free World" she discusses how celebrities and just your average selfie taker can start to reflect attention and use our resources to focus on what really matters.

" it's time for us to stop focusing on self and instead, focus on what is going on around us... Miley has won some of my respect because she chose to use her Video Music Award (VMA) to shed light on the social justice issue of poverty and homelessness. She could have used it to self-promote in a usual celebrity fashion. Instead, we saw political activism. This is what I wish to see in place of every selfie. What would our world look like if we stopped gazing at ourselves, broke out of our proverbial narcissism and turned our camera phones to the multiple issues of social injustice that have begun to fade into the background like old wallpaper?". 

"The New York Times reported that Miley's campaign for the homeless youth nonprofit My Friend’s Place amassed over $200,000 in less than 24 hours following the VMAs, in addition to God knows how much since then."

Arnold goes on to discuss the Ice Bucket Challenge. "The ALS association has received 70.2 million dollars in donations compared to the 2.5 million they received last year."  Even though the small things seem silly, we can all come together to use our platforms for good. Action comes when we start turning our camera phones around and working to resolve issues that can be helped in our little corner of the world.

What issue will you get behind? I agree that we can join Carrie in making September Selfie-free!!

April D. Byrd is a Resident Support Staff for The Christian Women's Center A Non-Profit Organization dedicated to providing  shelter for women in crisis, believing they can receive physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness through the love of Christ. She is on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 27

Travelling Mamas

By Ajike Akande

Guess what, folks?  Wife and I managed to get away for three whole days (4 nights) without our kiddos!  We went to Las Vegas aka Sin City and the most sinful thing we did was take extra towels to provide major cushioning for the chaise lounges we glued ourselves to all day, every day.  Being there was pure bliss; we literally did exactly what we wanted.  The Lazy River experience was actually too much activity for us! (Do you know how hard it is to relax and float through the water in an inner tube?)  Point is, we did it.  We went away.  Of course,  we almost didn’t.

This trip had been planned since January.  Wife convinced me to leave the kids to fulfill my big and admittedly questionable dream to see Celine Dion perform in Vegas.   I am an out Celine fan (this was almost a deal breaker for Wife) and after careful consideration, I decided she was worth leaving my babies for.  You may know that, without warning Celine Dion cancelled all of her shows from August to at least March 2015.  We found out five days before we were scheduled to leave.  I was so upset and quite honestly I had many friends, Facebook and otherwise, who were upset on my behalf.  Look Celine, I’m all about putting one’s family first, but for you, I was prepared to put my family second! 
After hearing the news about Ms. Dion, Wife and I waffled about whether or not we should actually go to Vegas or change our destination or just postpone the trip all together.  Okay, only I thought we should totally cancel the trip, because without Celine, what was the point?  (By the way, it is bad form to say to your partner, the day after your 8th wedding anniversary, that without Celine Dion, there is no point in going away together.  Don’t say I never shared keys to relationship success!)

Added to the my mental list of reasons we should not leave the children was the age of the grandmothers who would be staying with them.  You would never know to look at them and they certainly seem to forget that with their age may come possible limitations, but Nanny and Bubbie are 77 and 84 years old!    After the heroic grandmas, that mothered Wife and I, convinced me that they would be fine, Wife thought that the discussion was over and we did not have to use the cancellation insurance.  She is so naive.  What is she, new?  I was still compiling a list of reasons not to go away. 

As though my lovely five-year-old twins and I had planned it, they pulled out their most obscene and off-putting behaviour in support of my quest to cancel our Vegas vacation.  And yes, I do mean obscene and off-putting.  There is no other way to describe it.  I’m not being mean, I know they struggle with a number of things and that their undesirable behaviours are often (but not always) not on purpose, but seriously, they didn’t hold back.  They did not want us to leave.  In my totally-afraid-to-leave-my-kids opinion there was no way that anybody would be able to manage and support them while we were gone – even the heroic grandmas.  I just didn’t think that anybody would be okay without us.  We have some tricks that sometimes work to help keep the girls calm and reassured.  Of course these tricks often don’t work, but we are used to their quirks.   And it wasn’t just the girls I worried about.  Mr. Lee has severe allergies and a really unfortunate obsession with kneading the breasts of any woman caring for him.  Grandmothers are not fond of breast kneading (as far as I know).  And Z, well his two settings are cartwheeling and sleeping.  Unfortunately he regularly forgets to check his surroundings before kicking his legs into the air.  I couldn’t risk someone suffering a cartwheel injury while we were away.  Oh and F-Jammie is certain she’s an Olympic swimmer and will plunge into any water in her sight.   You need to be quick with that one.  Without Celine as my departure reward, leaving the kids seemed like a horrible idea. 

I couldn’t even pack until about 30 minutes before we had to leave for the airport.  I sat on my floor and sought Facebook friend support to manage my fears about leaving and of course, many of my lovelies came through with encouragement and suggestions regarding how much Ativan I should take and which alcoholic beverages I needed to order before boarding and while on the plane.  I have really good Facebook friends.  Finally, I abandoned my list of reasons not to go away, and packed up and headed to the airport with Wife. 

I said all the prayers as the plane took off – oh, how I hate flying, and tried to settle into vacation mode.  After an uneventful flight (prayers answered) and the arrival at a fancy hotel without a casino (ahhh, the peace) it wasn’t too hard to get into the we’re-away-without-our-kids-which-means-sleep spirit!  We slept, read, ate good food and drank tasty drinks by day and enjoyed relatively calm Vegas activities by night.  We saw two Cirque Du Soleil shows and Wife proposed to me again.  That’s right, a second marriage proposal - no big deal.  Except it was a totally big deal!  My sweet asked me to marry her again in public, at a piano bar, in front of all sorts of strangers, after singing to me off key, offering a new, sparkly, sticky-uppy ring!  It was amazing!  I was so surprised.  I am never surprised. 

Okay so listen folks, here is the take away.  If you are a parent, at some point you should leave your small humans.  The time away will be likely be blissful and if you are parenting with another exhausted soul, who you love, the time away together will help you remember why and how the heck you ended up in this exhausting parenting predicament.  Please know, however, that you will not return with a new lease on life.  You will return and realize that your children are the sweetest, most miss-able, incredible people you know and all the reasons you totally needed a break from them are still there.  They will be the same and you will be the same only with a hangover, I mean well rested (unless you take the red-eye home).  Best part? Kiddos are almost always so much better for other people.  Our little ones were no exception, which means our awesome care-giving team are able and willing to sign up to ensure that we get to have some time away again. 

Thank you to Nanny, Bubbie and Tita Liza (our caregiver) for giving the kids and us a much-needed vacation.  And Silverman-Akande young folk, don’t be afraid to sleep through the night for Mommy and Mama the way you did for Nanny, Bubbie and Tita while we were away.   You will be appropriately rewarded for your efforts! 

XO Ajike

Friday, August 22

The Corner of Ferguson And Freedom

When we see sexualized depictions of women in the media, that are self generated is it limitation or liberation? an age-old debate wrapped in the perception of a power struggle. So, it's redundant to continue feeding the illusion. Sexual liberation is not and issue. Smart women own their bodies, period.

Since the popularity of Rapper Lil Kim and the image she pervaded in the media. Hyper-sexuality in women came to be more worthy of discussion. In an infamous interview by Bell Hooks for Vibe Magazine it was debated whether Kim was furthering or hindering the cause of strong women.

Now the question has been regurgitated in the wake of  Rapper Nicki Minaj's cover art and Viral video for Anaconda. In a recent Poll for Essence, the magazine inquired whether it was ok for women artists to exploit women's bodies. Something male artists clearly catch hell for. 

If exploitation or celebration is the continual question at hand, then Nicki's specific byte from Sir-Mix-A- Lot's "Baby Got Back" is a case within it self. Which is more stunning: to be referred to as a child or the exclusive emphasis on Baby's "back"? but why are we still talking about this?

Being born into a media climate where sexuality and physical attributes are heavily stressed regardless of race, it took divine revelation and a brush with wisdom to conclude that I as a woman am more than my body...then being a black girl with a naturally skinny physique the cultural taunt is that I naturally should have a little more derriere. I've joked and mocked at my perceived "small booty" myself but the unpopular truth is, bodies are made to be unique. There is a great need to dismantle the stereotypical or manufactured images being received as right or perfect. Only 5% of women have the type of bodies we see on Billboards and TV commercials. Embrace that you're God's artwork and realize your capability as an artist. It is up to us to honor our bodies and own the representation of them.

In her rant: The Real Problem With Nicki Minaj's Anaconda Cover Art And Her "Black Jezebel" Brand Tiffanie Drayton exposes Nicki's attempt to highlight the voices of critics as a racial issue. In Minaj's defense she tweeted white female bodies in contrast to her's with the same pose, which does make sense, but Nicki's image as an artist still capitalizes on a central theme, and her brand reinforces the notions of Black Female Hyper-sexuality. 

-- "In today’s America where the CDC reports that Black women are between 6-17 times more likely to suffer from sexually transmitted diseases due to social and economic conditions including poverty, income inequality, unemployment and low educational attainment, the need for a modernized scapegoat used to avoid culpability for the Black condition has never been more dire. Nicki Minaj is the current walking embodiment of that tradition of stereotype-enabled victim-blaming, proving that as a society, America has yet to defeat its racist notions and will even continue to invoke them to the economic and social benefit of the Whiter man."

The defilement, murder and disregard for life, given through the crisis in ferguson and the case of Mike Brown correspondingly bring victims like Jada, of #IAmJada to mind. Black women's bodies are under a constant surveillance, they are policed and scrutinized heavily in the media. They have suffered degradation and devalue through out the ages. The racialized fear of black female hyper-sexuality also transfers onto the sexualized white female body and the criminalized black male body.*

The prevalent hashtag presented by the NAACP: #blacklifematters equally applies here. The reality is ...LIFE Matters. No BODY should be sold short. Regardless of  being any distinctive class of people. We're all living, breathing beings with life. #Imatter, #Lifematters, We all matter, beyond our physical bodies there is a soul. No life should be taken in vain, or taken for granted. The line between  celebration or exploitation of female bodies...or life in general, is not thin AT ALL. It's up to every individual to put down the stereotypes, and push for integrity.

Subscribe to Trey Anthony's Fan Page and @aprilinspired on Twitter for the latest updates.

Thursday, August 14

Mo'ne Davis Led Her All-Male Baseball Team To World Series

In this generation women are pushing through and girls are going hard. In the wake of Becky Hammons landmark advancement in the NBA, 13-year-old Mo'ne Davis from Philadelphia led her all-male Little League baseball team to the World Series by striking out six batters, the win was an 8-0 victory, and she currently pitches a 70-mph fastball.  Nuff said...the girl's good! It goes to show that women are not limited as we're sometimes led to believe. No one can tell us what we can or can't do, all that matters is having the tenacity to do it. We define our destiny and our legacy.

Girls have been allowed to play in the Little League World Series since 1974. Another girl will play in this year's series as well, Emma March of Canada's South Vancouver League. Davis and March will appear at the world series for the first time this Friday August 14th, on ESPN. This is the third time in history two girls have played in the Little League World Series at once.

Hopefully more reports of courageous female athletes will continue to spread. It's very empowering to see ladies being driven to do life on their own terms and pursue their passion disregarding the risks. The Little League World Series will air consecutively over ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC networks during the weekend. These girls do my heart good! It's definitely an event worth catching!

Way to Go Ladies!!!

Check out Mo'Ne in action in the video below:

What do you think about Davis and March playing with with the boys? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. and join the convo on Trey Anthony's Facebook Fan Page and Twitter: @aprilinspired.

Tuesday, August 12

You Bring Out The Boogie In Me

by Ajike Akande

Last week I wrote about our big family and the impact of its largeness and bigness on our children. (You can read it here.) There is so much more to say about that.  So much more.  But folks today is my wedding anniversary!  It’s Wife’s too, but truth be told, it was kind of my wedding.  Would you believe after I spent a year of my life, that I will never get back, planning the wedding, she had the nerve, days before the big day, to suggest that she wear a blue tie instead of a green one?  Apparently she forgot that our weeding had a colour scheme!  Pink and green baby; no room for blue!    I believe my exact words to her as I stormed out of the room crying were: “Why are trying to ruin MY wedding?”  Yes, I did say that.  Yes, I am still a little upset about the tie incident.  Yes, she married me anyway, so there! 

Today is our wedding anniversary and tomorrow is The Littles 3rd birthday.  (I may have brought on their early arrival by having hot wings for our anniversary dinner back in 2011.  Of course it could have been that I was so darn big and uncomfortable there was no way they could stay in for another day let alone month!) 

Because it’s a celebratory week in our world and because our hearts have been heavy Wife and I thought we’d have some fun and make another video (remember the first one?) demonstrating that even when we (Wife and I, not even talking about the kiddos) are having to work harder than usual, harder that we’d like, harder than we should have to, to love our love and choose our love, we still know how to have a roaring good time together.  We can talk about how we are going to drive our love train through this poorly lit, dingy station, and chug along to a station that is brighter and lighter, tomorrow.  Today we sing! 

Scroll back up to the top and enjoy You Bring Out The Boogie In Me featuring the Silverman-Akande singers/dancers/musicians except F-Jammie.  She prefers to eat watermelon over performing with the fam.

XO Ajike

P.S Mom and Mom Phyllis:  We will be fine.  Thanks in advance for taking care of our brood next week so we can go to Vegas and fall in love all over again!  You two have shown us how to love and push through.  All will be good!  xo

Friday, August 8

Becky Hammon Becomes The NBA's First Female Coach...To Get Paid For Doing it

By: April D. Byrd

Does anybody know where can I grow some balls like Becky Hammon?! She's a WNBA star and she just became the first woman full-time assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, that means SHE'S GETTING PAID!! This is a "You Go Girl"! moment if there ever was one. This is a big step for the NBA and for Women.

"First and Foremost it means Respect", Nancy Lieberman, assistant manager of the Texas Legends said. "She did not get hired just because she is a woman, she was hired because she was qualified, because they know her personality, how she interacts with players, how she understands X's and O's".

I'm guessing Lieberman's not talking about hugs and kisses. According to a report in the New York Times blog, Hammon has been on top of her game for a while, coaching meetings, film review sessions  and working behind the scenes with the team. She referred to her experience as an internship of sorts.

In the wake of her "intern-like" support, Becky watched on as the team went on to win it's fifth championship. She's well qualified, and her achievement is dynamic in history. Now just imagine how much tenacity it takes to be a female, mentoring a bunch of men...athletes at that! Our hats are definitely off to her. To have balls like Becky Hammon would be an honor, but then again balls aren't the matter of concern here. We're in awe because she has something much stronger. She's ALL Woman!...A Phenomenal One.

>>  this message has been Betty White approved... <<

What do you think about Hammon's new position? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. and join the convo on Trey Anthony's Facebook Fan Page and Twitter: @aprilinspired.

Tuesday, August 5

Better Together

by Ajike Akande

It may come as a surprise to you, but when Wife and I decided to have a whack of kids, we didn’t think at all about what being one of many would mean for the children.  I know, this is hard to believe, but Wife and I are not of the thinking variety.  If it makes you feel any better, which it shouldn’t, we also didn’t give much thought to how much making (some of our beauties were created with a lot of expensive help as the absence of sperm wasn’t our only fertility issue) and raising a large family would cost.  It is not at all lost on me, that the fact that we could even make our babes without the stress of finances, says a great deal about our economic privilege.

Wife and I were kind of selfish in regards to creating our family.  We wanted ‘lots of children.  We love children and wanted the honour of helping them grow into the wonderful adults they were meant to be.  We wanted a house full of the energy that only small wonders have.  We have always felt that kids are the greatest blessing, a remarkable gift.  We wanted the honour, they would be our blessing and our gift.  Do you see what I’m getting at here?  Of course we thought we would be great parents and that children would do well be raised by us.  We thought we were right for the job.  I for one, was a SPWC (superior parent without child) prior to becoming an actual parent so naturally I assumed that I would be awesome at this whole thing and never make the mistakes that I witnessed others making while I was a SPWC.  (Little did I know I would create my own unique brand of parenting mistakes!)  The point is, we thought only about ourselves when it came to making our family.

Z, being the first little one that we brought home, enjoyed all the perks of being an only child.  Before our first set of twins were born, Z certainly didn’t ask for a sibling, but he certainly dealt well once Miss O and G-dog arrived. When he found out that he was going to get a little brother out of my last pregnancy, Z was thrilled but the girls were pretty neutral about two more little people joining our family of five.  The big sisters did not easily deal with the arrival of The Littles but I believe that they just weren’t ready.  Miss O was still receiving occupational and speech-language therapy and needed a lot of one on one time and G-dog, who developed more typically, probably didn’t get all that she needed in her early years.  In spite of Miss O’s significant needs and the more typical needs of our then four year old and other two year old, we tried for a fourth and got a fourth and fifth! 
We, along with close family and friends, have said at different times, that each of our kids probably would have done well as only children.  We are careful to say “done well” rather than “done better” because why criticize what truly cannot be changed.  What’s a mom to do with that?  It’s too late!  Whenever I talk to people raised in big families they always say how wonderful it was to grow up always having someone to play with and talk to.  Growing up in a big family means you’re never alone which, of course, means you are never alone. 

When Miss O was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) the occupational therapist explained that she needs a predictable and highly structured environment until she is better able to self-regulate when she is overwhelmed by sensory input.  Well, sorry about your family Miss O, best of luck achieving calm among the chaos!  Over the past few years, G-dog has grown so anxious about how people feel about her and I can’t help but wonder if being one of many is the cause of this anxiety.  She worries, more than normal, how much we love her, if we made an angry face, if her siblings love each other more than they love her, and even if grandparents and caregivers love her as much as the others.  It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle around here and some of our children seem to feel more lost than others. 

Z, being older and extremely self-aware, is able to talk about his feelings around being one of many.  Several months ago I took him to dinner and a movie and he said, “I love being alone with you.  If I was an only child I could be alone with you all the time.  Sometimes I like to pretend I don’t have any brothers and sisters.”  Then fearful that I would launch into a speech about how fortunate he is to have so many siblings, he added “But I really like all my little sisters and brother - especially Mr.  Lee!”  Given that Z is the only Silverman-Akande kid without a twin, I am so happy to witness the greatest love affair of all time, between the brothers. 

Like with everything, there are benefits and drawbacks to being one of many.  Because there’s no going back, we try to acknowledge what our kiddos have lost by having so many siblings, while preaching, loudly and often, how lucky they are to have each other.  We are desperate to build a team spirit among our basketball team sized brood that says “better together”.  Sadly, right now, their “better together” spirit is mostly seen when we are trying to get them to listen to us.  There is nothing more frustrating that five little buggers laughing in your face – together! 

We are on our second, weeklong FIT (family immersion time), aka family vacation, up at “Nanny’s farm”.  The children have been given two main rules for the week: 1.  Go outside and run in the fields.  Don’t go toward the road and don’t come back until you are hungry or someone is hurt.  Oh and stay together!  2.  Ask three, then me.  (This rule will be familiar to teachers.)  Need help to reach something?; Need help with your shoes?; Want a push on the swing?  Ask three, then me.  These rules are all about learning to take care of each other and to leave us alone!  I’m just kidding about them leaving us alone, but in truth we need want them to depend on each other and look out for each other.  I think a week with no schedule (How’s that workin’ for ya Miss O?) and wide-open space is a great start to project “Better Together”. 

We decided we were big family parents, without considering if we would have big family children.  We created this big family before considering what it would mean for our children.  A few years into each of our kids being one of five we are thinking and talking about how wonderful and how hard it is for them, not just us.  I get a lot of attention for being a mom of many but people rarely talk about what it is like for our children.  Given that we created this mess, I mean beautiful family, we should probably be the ones to start the conversation. 

What do you think?  Are you a parent of many?  What are your thoughts on this?  How are your little ones doing being part of a pack? Were you raised in a big family?  What were the best and worst things about your childhood?  I would love to hear about other people’s experiences.  Share your thoughts in the comments. 

XO Ajike