The Magic Number 5

Okay I am going to say it…I really don’t like kids. I know that sounds bad, but let me explain. I love children. I love to watch them grow and learn. I have the ability to understand how their little brains work and to help them sense of things. They have awesome cuddles and sometimes they can be so irresistible. But I cannot stand whining, crying, temper tantrums, snot, motor mouths, and kids who ask questions faster than you can answer them for no reason. And in the spirit of going back to school for all of you moms who are thinking the same thing I just said, this post is about educating our little…angels.

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I get a lot of questions about education and how to teach kids certain things. My students’ parents always call me to ask me homework questions even when their child is not in my class. I find this interesting since I’ve been known as Ms. Cutthroat instead of Ms. Cutno. Obviously, I am not always their favorite teacher, but I know how to get the job done. Don’t know why they would be afraid of somebody who isn’t even 5 feet tall anyway (hehe).

So anyway, if you have a little one at home, this may help you. It is never too late to make sure your child has grasped these key things. I call it The Magic Number 5.

1. THE ALPHABET: Your child should understand that the alphabet consists of 26 letters. They should know how to identify and write all of them. Teach them the sounds of each. They should be able to identify the sounds as quickly as they can identify the letters. From there, they should know how to put multiple sounds together. In education, we call these chunks and blends and word families. There are tons of activities for these things all over the internet and Pinterest. My son loves Super Why, which is a cartoon that teaches all of these skills to help children read. Another good resource is Starfall. It is a website and an app. Every pre-k and kindergarten teacher uses this site.

2. SIGHT WORDS: So important! Introducing kids to these early is helpful. These are words that can be read from memorization. These words are the most commonly used. If your child is having difficulty learning phonics, teaching them to recognize these words can give them confidence when reading. At least there are some guaranteed words on a page that they can read. These too can be found all over the internet and are listed by grade. Don’t limit your child to the age appropriate words. It’s never too early to teach these. I used to give grades for being able to identify these words orally. It was a good way to boost students grades when I was forced to use other stupid assessments I didn’t agree with. There is an app called Endless Reader that my son loves, but beware because the characters on this game are completely crazy monsters who have my child acting like he is on a constant sugar high. Another app that is great is simply called Sight Words. It has great games that kids like, too.

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3. NUMBERS: Like the alphabet this has to be taught with fidelity. Some kids are better at math than reading and will grasp this quickly, but others wont. Teach your child the basic numerals 0-9. Have them practice counting and writing numbers. Count by two’s, three’s, etc. Use things to count like coins, beans, candy, toys or anything you have around the house. Do activities like grab a handful of an object and guess how many you have then count them. Count from any number. Children need to be able to continue counting from any number. Ask questions like what number comes before 5 and after 5. Number sense is sooooo important. Kids can’t begin to add and subtract numbers until they truly understand value. And without knowing value a calculator is a useless tool.  Exactly how much is 5? It is more than 3 but a lot less than 100. Endless Numbers is another one of those monster apps that is great.

4. MENTAL MATH and OPERATIONS: Once a child masters number sense, they will be great at mental math. I have seen so many kids struggle with counting on their fingers (and adults). One thing I do agree with Common Core on is teaching kids strategies to be able to quickly compute. Children should be able to quickly add and subtract numbers in their heads. There are many activities you can do with dice and playing cards. You can find these on Pinterest.

You can’t really find the answers to a math problem unless you understand what the operations mean. You would be surprised how many kids can’t express what it means to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. If you don’t understand this when you leave elementary school you are screwed when you get to algebra.

5. BRAINS and COMMON SENSE: If you teach your child anything you will be exercising their brains, but don’t forget the common sense. Teach them to think through problems and let them make decisions and mistakes. The best way to make

sure your child is unsuccessful in school is to not let them think for themselves. It only takes a couple of times of being wrong to shut a child down. Once they feel like they aren’t as smart as others they will stop trying. Give them plenty of opportunities to be wrong and learn from mistakes at home. And let them lose! A little disappointment in the comfort of your own home can prepare you for the horrible world of your peers.  Gotta have tough skin these days!

Whew! I am a rusty teacher. That took me a long time! I hope this has been helpful to someone because my brain hurts!!!!

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My Addiction

I absolutely love Super Soul Sunday! After a week of mindless television because I am too tired to concentrate on a show, I love to watch it and get an “Aha Moment”. This past Sunday, Gary Zukav was talking about addiction. This totally had my mind blown and I learned that I have an addiction.

Sorry for this really bad explanation and butchering of your words Mr. Zukav…He said an addiction is anything you can’t stop doing that brings your comfort. Because I am always applying counseling to myself and others I decided to analyze my habits to see if I had an addiction that I was not aware of. I love margaritas, but I am not an alcoholic. I love to eat, but I don’t tend to overeat. I don’t do drugs. So since the obvious did not apply, I started thinking about things that make me comfortable. Then i discovered it and it is quite lame and I am ashamed to even say it. But here it goes.

My addiction is playing it safe and not taking risks. This applies to all aspects of my life. After high school I went to LSU because it was easy and close to home. Then I majored in education because it was easy and I would always have a job. I wanted to move away after college, but it was easier to stay in Baton Rouge and get a job. I tend to date men I already know somehow because dating makes me uncomfortable. I also tend to go back to old relationships because it is easy and I know what to expect. I am never confrontational and if I curse you out I have probably been cursing you out in my head for 10 years. I never stand up for myself or tell somebody when they have done something wrong. Geez, I really sound sad. I could go on here, but I won’t further embarrass myself.

However, I am not ashamed to admit this. I think I am truly a good person on the inside and I have some awesome qualities. Until now I have never thought about this as an addiction, but simply an area I would like to work on. My journey through this addiction started last year with the creation of this blog. It felt good to give a voice to my thoughts. But I didn’t stop there. I pushed myself further and decided I was going to audition for Listen To Your Mother, but I wasn’t smart enough to think of what would happen if I was actually chosen for the show. Kinda wanted to sugar honey iced tea my pants when I had to prepare to stand on a stage and share my story. Then I did it and it was AMAZING! Not the actual standing in front of an audience thing, but fearlessly (well not exactly) speaking for myself about something I am passionate about. Now after many other changes I am taking a huge leap of faith and working with two other courageous women to start Besties on the Geaux. I absolutely can’t wait to help other women find their own voices and take a stand for what they are passionate about.

So, my public service announcement is: If you feel upset or offended by my voice in the future, I am sorry. I am simply trying to fight my addiction.

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Say no to the drama!

Admitting when you are wrong is the first step to change. I, like many, have engaged in gossip, enjoyed drama, and been judgmental. That was wrong and if you were the focus of this behavior know that I am truly sorry. 

Over the years I have learned that this is something we are taught as young girls. We are taught to present ourselves in a certain manner and taught we have the right to judge and discuss those who don’t. This applies to being a woman, a mother, and a wife. I won’t go into detail of that because everyone reading this knows exactly what is expected for those roles. 

It is not the norm to groom up young boys to stop picking their noses because it won’t make them a suitable husband. Or to teach them how to cook so they will make somebody a fine housekeeper I mean husband one day. Nor is it common that we are teaching them to care for their younger siblings so they know how to change a diaper when they become a father. And we are definitely not teaching them to starve themselves so they can be skinny enough to be wanted by a woman. 

And when boys grow into men and do assume the role of husband and father, the success of the family doesn’t fall on them. Now I do know that men have their own pressures, but when a family walks into a grocery store and they’re well put together then that woman must be a great wife and mother. On the reverse, if they are looking like a hot mess, then that mama is wrong for that. If those kids are acting a fool, that mama didn’t teach them how to act in public. So, what’s the point of having a husband then or a father for your children? Oh, so you can look like the kind of woman that knows how to keep her stuff together enough to keep a man…now I’m getting it lol. 

The sad thing is that women keep those terrible ideas circulating and one way or another we teach them to our children. No man is turning to his homeboy sitting next to him and saying, “Do you see how he came dressed to this child’s birthday party?” “I know bro, he sure is wrong for that!” “He didn’t even comb that baby’s hair or wipe her mouth when she got cake all over it” 

I crack myself up sometimes…maybe y’all don’t think I’m that funny though lol. But now that I’m done joking back to my point—we have to stop being so judgmental and allow each other to be who we are. More importantly we have to support one another and build each other up. You have no idea what a person is carrying with them from day to day. Sisterhood is important and we don’t have to join a sorority or be born into the same family to be nice, show some respect and accept someone’s differences. 

  

What you got?

I hesitate to write this because I don’t want to sound bitter or like a man hater. However, I can’t control how people take it. As my students used to say, “that’s on your body!”

Every woman knows the struggle of dating and relationships. With social media, online dating, and so many easy ways to connect we often blame that on why men don’t work hard. I have a different theory for this. 

When I started college, MySpace and Black Planet were the popular social media sites. But we didn’t have smart phones. We accessed these sites from our computers and most of us didn’t have laptops. Facebook became more popular towards the end of my college career. Yet with limited access to the World Wide Web, guys still put forth little effort to actually date. 

You might get a call on your cell or dorm phone where your boo of the month was asking you to come “chill” AKA pretend that we are actually going to watch a movie. I gave guys many passes back then because we were poor college students. I thought maybe they just can’t afford to take me out or they’re just too busy to do much more. 

As I got older I thought surely this will get better. Seemingly it did. There was a little more effort into asking me out. Amongst my group of friends there was a consensus that this stage of dating was much better than college days.  

Now fast forward to ten years later and I’m going to say this is just pitiful! My girlfriends and I are sharing stories that are more like Lifetime movies than Disney fairytales. Many people discuss that chivalry no longer exists. I can say that I agree, but to me that is not the largest issue. The common theme seems to be that men are not working towards making lasting connections. They want things fast and easy. Sparks should fly immediately and so should panties. And expectations should fly right out of the window.

I’m not trying to give a voice for every woman on this issue, but I will make some general points. There’s absolutely no way you can get sparks and panties for free! And that doesn’t mean you have to pay for it. What you do have to do is work for it. If you want to go out in public with a woman then you have to ask. If you want her to be interested in you then you have to show some interest. What about some decent conversation? How about sharing what you want from the relationship and being honest? As a woman, I like to know that I’m being given the opportunity to make a decision for myself. Lastly, what is it that you have to offer? Every man has something different that he brings to the table. Being realistic about that can take you a long way. Are you just attractive but have no skills or resources? Do you have money, but you’re not really that cute? Are you handy? Maybe you’re a great cook. Every woman isn’t looking for the same thing, but you have to be willing to find out. 

Personally, a strong connection will always be at the top of my list. Being able to be emotionally available and supportive is what builds that. From there it can only get better and better. 

Was this too much or nah? 

Sorry I’m very sleep deprived today. 

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Bounce Back

Pregnancy is a bad mother…It does all sorts of stuff to your body that you cannot even imagine. Then there is so much pressure from our family and friends to look good during the process and shake back quickly. All over Instagram and Facebook, people share photos of their bodies after giving birth and brag about how they’re getting their figures back.  It is quite sad in my opinion.

After giving birth, there are so many things that are still happening to your body. Another human was growing for 40 weeks inside of your body. Your body had to be remodeled to make room for this little sucker! Hormones and medications and interventions with labor–all of these things are affecting your body. Then you not only leave the hospital still looking pregnant, but you have this other person to take care of. You are tired and you are most likely spend most of your time, feeding, changing or just staring at the little baby.

Doctors advise women not to have sex for 6 weeks. Yet women are giving themselves a hard time about not being able to fit back into their old clothes and still having a little pouch. Do we all really pray to have these genetics that might kick in and make us look like a Victoria’s Secret model? It is quite ridiculous.

I weighed 125 pounds before I got pregnant and I gave myself a hard time. I wanted a flatter stomach. My legs weren’t toned enough. I should diet and workout more. If only I could lose 10 pounds so I could go back to a size 2 from a size 4. But I was in good shape. I never really had a flat stomach or abs. Not even when I weighed 100 pounds in high school. I should have been embracing and enjoying the body I had.

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Then, I got pregnant. I was 191 pounds on the day I gave birth. That was like adding a fifth grader to the person I was before. It took a long time to lose all of that weight. None of that happened anywhere near over night. I worked out a lot in the beginning. I didn’t have too much time for dieting or meal planning with an infant at home so I did what I could. Then after a year and a half, I got rid of my scale. I was probably about 140 pounds at that point. It was difficult for me to lose the last of the weight. I had been weighing myself everyday. I had to stop worrying about it.

I spent the next year taking care of myself emotionally. I stopped being obsessed with my “bounce back” and began to get to know the new me. I had been through a lot and learned many things after becoming a mother. I ate when I was hungry and I ate snacks! No brown rice or protein packed meals. I just cooked what I wanted.

And now my son is 3. It took me almost this long to get back to my pre-baby weight. Can you believe I still don’t have abs? I have to laugh at myself because I hate working out so I just don’t. This is something I want to work on for my health but not because I want to change how I look. I am so much more confident now at 31 than I was at 21. Although almost every square inch of my body is covered in a lovely design of wrinkled, stretch marks, I am proud of it. I no longer care about how other people see me. I wear this body with pride because it is mine and it tells my story. So when you see me in a bikini or crop top because it is hot as hell this summer–don’t judge or do.

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Now or Never!

Today has been a difficult day for me. Just a few months ago I quit my job as a school counselor to stay home with my son. Many people ask many questions about how I will pay my bills and what I am going to do. I’ve accepted many strange looks and I’m sure worse thoughts about my crazy plan. I just kept saying, “I’m going to be a stay at home mom.” Surely people got their kicks out of that, but I am going to try my hardest to make this happen.

So, I’ve been ending many days in headaches trying to figure this thing out. I have been working on my doula certification, but I knew I wanted to do something more and incorporate my passion for counseling somehow. After a few months things are finally starting to come together and as excited as I am, I am trying not to let fear get in my way.

I have a strong group of women working with me. Our team consists of myself, my sister Renee Cutno, and my friend Zenobia Reed. (Hopefully we will soon be adding a marriage and family counselor to the team). Together we hope to have come up with a concept that will change the way women feel about seeking counseling and asking for help. We have developed what we call Besties on the Geaux. We are not psychiatrists nor do we claim to be know-it-all’s. But what we are is a group of women who have been through a lot. Through life and education we feel we each have a lot to offer individually.

Our vision is to provide an informal and unorthodox type of counseling and more. We hope that we get the opportunity to give support to women going through real life events by helping them talk through their problem, creating a plan and being their own advocate. In addition, a member of our team can help with any problem from behavioral issues with children, balancing home and work, and even rebuilding after a separation with your partner.

I don’t know what will happen now that I have put this out there, but what I hope is that we will help at least one woman who is in need of a listening ear or a helping hand.

CHECK US OUT ON THE GEAUX!

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MY KID MAKES ME LOOK LIKE A SUCKA!

Today I took my son to a birthday party. It was a good party. He had a great time. 

But while we were there he got upset because I told him he could no longer play on the swings. Of course you expect to have moments like this when taking your kid in public. Well I’m working on getting my child to be more verbal. Like myself at his age he isn’t very interested in talking very much. Instead he rather just scream or hit.

In my efforts to get him to be more verbal, he has improved a little. Now instead of going immediately to the screaming or hitting, he verbalizes how he’s feeling in the moment. “Wanna hit Mommy,” he says so innocently. Oh this is just so awesome. 

My initial reaction to that when it first began was a pop to his butt or hand accompanied by my “you better get yourself together” look. Then my common sense had to take the wheel cause Jesus did not hear my cries! I was not handling this situation correctly. How could I communicate to him that hitting was not the answer when I was spanking him for just wanting to hit me? And he wasn’t hitting me. He was just saying he wanted to even though that was embarrassing as hell. 

My ego has to be put in check on a regular basis. I certainly want to be the authoritative figure in my house, but I know I’m not going to get there by having a power struggle with a toddler. Especially not in public. I try to make sure my discipline plan is one that I will feel comfortable sticking to in public. That’s one thing I promised myself I would try hard to do.

So, what is my new response to this? Ignore. A very difficult complete ignoring of the fact that  my 3 year old can boldly tell me he wants to hit me. Instead, I focus on the behavior I want to change. I sit him down and hold his hand. Help him count to ten if he’s really upset. Then explain to him what is happening and have him respond with a “yes ma’am” or “okay”. 

I know this may not make me look like I have my shit together and my kid doesn’t play with me! I don’t care. I’m trying to raise a self aware child with good self esteem. I’ve already had my chance to develop these things. It’s my turn to pay it forward. Even if I do look like a SUCKA!

  

Not a single mother

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I often refer to myself as a single mom, but I use this term loosely. Yes, I may be a single mother as in I am not married and do not have a spouse that lives with me to help with the daily routine of taking care of my son. But I am not in this alone.

The term single mother has such a bad connotation these days. Sorta leaves a bad after taste in my mouth when I say it. Single mother seems like yet another term to shame women. A single mom whose man left you. A baby mama who wasn’t good enough to marry. A divorced woman who couldn’t keep your man. Why do all of these terms seem to put the pressure on a woman to keep her family afloat?

I don’t care so much about that though because I wouldn’t let any of those things define me. I just don’t want to offend any of the people who support me and parent my child on a regular basis. On any given day you can find many people in and out of my house or those who are simply just reaching out in some sort of way to ask how we are doing. In fact, for over a year now I have lived with my sister because we spent so much time helping each other out from two households that we decided it would be easier to just live together. So everyday my son has at least two parents. (I hope he doesn’t go to school and make it seem like we are lesbians!) He regularly spends time with his dad or Facetimes him several times a day when he is away. Then there are many other parents in his life. His grandparents–my mom who he adores more than me most days and my dad who he is closer with than I have ever been. There are many friends, aunts, uncles, cousins….you get the point.

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When I was a teenager one of my sisters worked overnight and had an infant. My parents said they would take care of the baby while she was at work. The lie detector determined that was a lie! After she would leave my mom would hand the baby over to me. And at 14 years old, I fed and slept with a baby many nights. Even then I would feel offended when my sister would say she was a single mother and she was doing this all alone and nobody understood how hard this was. Well I understood that when I wanted to stay up all night talking on the phone with my latest crush I couldn’t because I was putting a baby to sleep. Many mornings I was tired as hell from barely sleeping all night as if I was a teenage mother. But I didn’t mind. I loved my niece and I loved my sister. That is what family does. But she wasn’t a single parent in my eyes. We all pitched in to help. I would argue that there are probably married women who have less help.

As women we have to be less hard on ourselves and give ourselves more credit. If we don’t allow ourselves to assume these negative views of us then it can’t happen. Who started all of this BS anyway?

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Khayriyyah–my not so alter ego

IMG_4997I think I live a double life. There’s Khayriyyah—this is me. The person that my friends know. The person that I get to slowly peel back the layers of when establishing relationships. I get the opportunity to share this person through anecdotes, history of my upbringing, my interests, my fears, etc.

Then there’s Riya, KK, Booty Riya, Magnolia shorty, and any other ridiculous things my family calls me. This is the person that’s frozen in time. This person doesn’t get the chance to provide her own story. Nor does she get to decide her vulnerability, share what makes her tick, or even what makes her who she is.

I come from a big family. Two parents, 6 siblings–5 of which are girls. I am number 6. By the time I came along the culture was already established. I had to assimilate and figure out how to be a part of this unit. My siblings are great. Each unique in their own way. But damn this makes things difficult.

Then there is the age gap. 17 years from start to finish. When the oldest of my siblings left home, I was a kid who was still in elementary school. That is who they know of me. But that girl, Riya, was quiet. She was an awkward introvert who let people make decisions for her. “I don’t know,” she would say. “It doesn’t matter.” And it really didn’t matter. She really didn’t know. It was hard for her to find her identity in a family with so many strong personalities. The other members of this family were vocal or should I say loud. They were filled with many different skills and talents to stand out and to be noticed–and I didn’t want any parts in any of that.

Khayriyyah was born when there was room for her to grow. When my older siblings left, I was able to become myself. It was almost as if I changed religions or moved to another city. Things were not as loud. I could talk and be heard. There was time for me to be still and get to know myself as an individual. I know now that I flourish the most in a quiet environment where I can go within. In fact, it takes me a long time to regroup after a family event or oh Lord let’s not even talk about Thanksgiving.

I think it would be safe to say, my siblings don’t know me very well and I don’t know them. I wish they knew that I am doing the best I can. That I am not ever judging and always think before I talk. Or that I can cook really well even though I pretending not to so I didn’t have to participate in long hours of Thanksgiving preparation. I am an overthinker but not a worrier. I hate talking on the phone. My mom is one of my best friends. My greatest accomplishment in life is my son. I don’t care what people think of me. I am still shy. I do care. It does matter.