Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Holidays

I type this as I lay in my bed, here on the day before December 25, Christmas. This has already been a very hard week for me, as the realization that my father is no longer here to talk my ear off, has hit. This time last year, my family was here with me; my mom and her husband, my brother and my dad all drove down to visit the kiddios and I. It was an odd combination (my mom and her husband, and then my dad as well?), but it worked. And of course, we had to have the regular family spat, but we all love each other at the end of the day.

Anyway, I pray that each and every one of you cherish these merry times with your family, no matter who you believe your creator to be, because all creators teach that you love one another. Be good to one another, and be better, if needbe. Remember to take a moment to reflect on the past year, smile at what you've accomplished, and be determined to finish what you've started. If there is something you have yet to complete, look forward to bringing it to fruition in the New Year.

Merry Holidays, loves...see you in 2010.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What's goin on?

Just a brief check in, to let you know whats going on in the world of MommaYonna...

~Had an appointment with the new therapist this past Thursday. Mind you, this would be our first, since I had an appointment back in October, which was rescheduled for November, which was rescheduled (yes, AGAIN) for this past Thursday. I was just excited to have NOT gotten another phone call from the office saying we'd have to reschedule again. So I make my way to the office, ready to go! Go up the elevator, to the office door and BAM! Slapped in the face with the HEAVY, syrupy scent of Artificial Cinnamon. It was so thick that my eyes immediately began to itch and well up with tears...for those of you who don't know me well, or in person, I am allergic to artificial cinnamon. It swells my respiratory passages rather quickly, and I already can't breathe, having asthma. I walk up to the receptionist (how nice, you're hidden behind a glass window, away from this demon air), and tell her I'm here for my appointment. She asks me if I'm okay, and I tell her that I am allergic to their air fresheners, as I fumble with my purse, looking for my Benedryl. (I keep lots on hand this time of year, since that scent is synonymous with the holidays) She just looks at me like I am wasting her time. I finally take a Benedryl Melt Away and hope for the she hands me a stack of paperwork to fill out. I ask her if that one Plug-In I'm seeing is the only one in the small waiting room, she says "No, there are 2". I can't escape it. I tell her I will be right back, and go into the hallway to fill out my paperwork.

Once I am finished, I return to the waiting room, and ask her if the doctor's office is scented as well, and she tells me that it isn't. So I sit in the office, scarf wrapped around my face tightly, my hand securing it, looking like a true mental case to everyone else in the room. Clearly, I'm sure they thought, she is in the right place.

So a half hour later, I am still sitting in the waiting room, and I hear the receptionist on the phone with someone. By now, there is only myself and one other patient in the room, and with it being 11:30, she came early for her 11:45. I hear the receptionist asking 'how long will you be?' to someone, and then 'well, your 11 o'clock is here' (that's me). She then gets off the phone. I'm expecting her to let me know that the doctor will be in shortly, he's parking, he's caught in traffic, ANYTHING...but she doesn't.

After another 5 minutes, I politely muffle through my scarf that I cannot take it anymore, I can't breathe, and I'm gonna have to go. She asked me if I wanted to reschedule, and I replied No. You've rescheduled me 3 times. The doctor isn't here, and who knows when he will be. You're assaulting me with histamines, and you don't really care. No. I will not be returning to this office. EVER.

The students are having a sleepover this coming Monday night, since we haven't had program in almost a week, and will not until January 4, when school resumes. This should be interesting.

The last day of program, we had a special, Secret guest come and speak to us. We prepared the students on how to act when a special guest comes, but for some reason, our Directors couldn't tell us who the guest was. Not even me, and I'm on staff! It was hard to help them prepare the girls, but for some reason, this guest needed complete press, no pictures, nothing but extra police protection. And this person was coming SPECIFICALLY to see our girls.

It turns out that our special guest was Dr. Maya Sotorro-Ng. (Also know as POTUS Barack Obama's little sister). I, for one, was blown away. She has been outspoken about Mixed Races in America, and is someone I look up to. She has also moved MANY times in her life (as I have) and taught middle school. She was in situations that many of our girls have faced, and was an all around great guest. She recognized when they were starting to zone out, and made sure to keep them engaged. A wonderful speaker!

She explained that she didn't want anyone else to know she was coming because she didnt want to draw attention to herself. She had been visiting DC for about 4 months now (is moving back to Hawaii in a couple of days) and loves her anonymity. She has only been recognized 6 times out of 4 months, and uses it to her family's advantage. She told us how just the day before, she had taken Sasha and Malia out to a bookstore, and while the public knew who the girls were, they didnt know who she was. She was able to keep people away from the girls, asking them to "allow the girls to have just a bit of normalcy", and they obliged. She is able to make runs here and there for Barack and Michele, that they would never be able to do themselves without a motorcade and pomp and circumstance. I can understand that! I was just honored to have her there with us.

In a little more than a week, the kiddios and I will be going on vacation, meeting my mother at our destination. This should be interesting, as I have never done anything like this before. Its always been me and the kiddios, or me and mom; never the 5 of us. I'm sure I will have plenty to share about that when I return, maybe even a few pictures.

Sheesh...didnt mean to be so long winded. My apologies.

See you next time.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Butterfly Effect

Good morning (or day, whenever it is that you get a chance to read this). Its a great day to be alive, oh yes, it is. Clearly, the sun is peeking through my mini-blinds, and I'm in a great mood!

First things first, I had to change things up around here, and got myself a new background, and some different colors...and they make me smile. I have a 'thing' for argyle right now, and purple being my favorite color, I just could not go wrong with this one. That and the fact that the youth in the background made my day! What do you think?

So, yesterday, Deputy Director and I went to an AYD reunion. Basically, anyone who went to an AYD training within the past year or so was invited back to check in, network, and be re-inspired about the work that us youth workers do. And BOY, was it inspiring.

The creator of the AYD Curriculum was there, and she explained how and why she came to write it, and then how she worked to get it to us. She ended up teaching the first 3 or 4 AYD trainings in the same church basement that I took my training in, the same one we were sitting in yesterday, 10 years ago. Boy, the effects those trainings had on the metro DC area!

Then, a wonderful family therapist (among a laundry list of other titles she carries,) Adrienne Noel of Baltimore, MD, served as our keynote speaker, explaining that the way a family communicates with one another is the way that they will act out their lives in society.

The way that she broke down our sample family made so much sense! I know that not only did I see these exact examples in some of my students families, but in my own as well.

For example:

*A woman refers to "My Baby's Father", and her teenaged daughter referring to her own "My baby's daddy". The daughter takes note from her own mother on how to 'show respect' to the father of her child, in giving him this title.

*Son of the family being called "Lil Man" as he is growing up, and then the pressures that are put on him prematurely, in order to live up to the moniker. (The same would apply, I feel, in a case of a little girl being called "Lil Mama")

*The way that parenting styles are carried out, especially between parents and offspring that are less than 20 years in age apart. How its usually one way (I'm the parent, children are to speak when spoken to, hard core discipline) or the other (I'm my childs best friend/we talk about EVERYTHING, but why won't they take my discipline seriously) and being able to find a balance, or not.

I also learned that the way that I communicate with my students can change their whole family. When I 'have a moment' with my girls (usually a disciplinary action, where we ask a disruptive student to take a moment in the hall, and we go and speak to them about it individually), I have to make sure that they understand why I have asked them to step out, realize what they did wrong, and how we can avoid this in the future. But I also have to make sure that they know I care about them; that I am not making judgement calls about them; that they are Important to Me, that I care enough to notice their actions, and that I see where they can improve and where I can offer my help. In most cases, if the student is comfortable with me, I make sure I hug them at the end of our conversation, because I want them to know that what I have said to them is genuine; I DO care about my girls, and want them to succeed. I also know that sometimes, these may be the only hugs that they get, for whatever reason, and this small amount of nurturing will go a long way.

I make sure that they know exactly how I feel about them (in the positive light). I remember telling one of my students just the other day, that I know she is a respectful young lady. She has two sisters in the program with her, and in listening to them speak, I know that they have been taught to resolve conflicts on a one on one basis. They actually use the term 'conflict resolution' in their everyday conversation! I let her know that I KNOW you have been taught this, that she knows how it works, but maybe we should try approaching it in a different way. Then I just told her plainly "I pay attention to you, what you do and what you say. You are an amazing person, but even amazing people have bad moments; let's work through this and get back to having amazing moments ." We went on to talk about getting past the issue, and getting back on track. Then I gave her a hug, and told her that I was glad she was in the program, and that she is so important to me, and why I am here (in the program). Then I sent her back into the classroom. Later on that day, the staff member that she had the conflict with gave her a shout out (which is a BIG DEAL to our students) for coming to her and solving the conflict on her own. I could do nothing but smile to know that Middle Sister had gone to the staff member on her own, and taken care of this in a quiet, inconspicuous manner, and that all was well in her world.

In turn, Middle Sister will now take this information she has just gathered back to her household. She will think about how she deals with someone, and this will pass along to the rest of her siblings, possibly even her parents. If so, I have done an effective job of youth development...for the day.

Youth development is ongoing, its constant. Youth are never fully developed. there are always teachable moments, just as there will always be learning moments. I am glad to have people and resources in my life that understand that, and are willing to teach and learn.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Its an unsunny Saturday...

And its raining, so its gonna be a lazy one.

On thing I learned while living in Michigan is that the color of the sky can effect your mood. Its unfortunate, but this is true. I have (what is politely known as) Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Lucky me.

When the sky is sunny, blue or even bright and white with clouds, things are swell. Even at night, when the sky is clear, I'm okay. But on dreary days such as today, when grey is all you see as you look up, the effects trickle down into moods. Like mine.

SAD is (another) form of depression, which occurs according to the seasons, most often winter. (HELLO December!) It has a number of symptom, including:
* Afternoon slumps with decreased energy and concentration
* Carbohydrate cravings
* Decreased interest in work or other activities
* Depression that starts in fall or winter
* Increased appetite with weight gain
* Increased sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness
* Lack of energy
* Slow, sluggish, lethargic movement
* Social withdrawal

So, out of those 9 symptoms, I can honestly say that I experience 6 of them on the regular, and about 4 or 5 of them as I type this. This is something that I have spoken to Dr. A about, he is going to have me begin light therapy treatments for this. Basically, you sit in a small room with a special type of bright light, which is supposed to mimic sunlight, for a period of time. It sounds crazy (or even like something you should be able to do at home!), be honest, it is. Who woulda thunk it, right?

Well...I've tried it. And no, I can't mimic this at home. The smallest room in my house is a huge storage closet (beyond the bathroom, I mean), and it isnt very well lit. Besides that, I dont have a lamp that would provide enough light, and although I would love to take a shopping trip to IKEA for one, now is not the time. My insurance pays for this treatment (Thank God for that-the insurance and them being willing to pay), so I will take my book/laptop/iPod and get my hour in the manmade sun on!

For my readers information, I was able to find a bit of info that may help you recognize this, should you feel that you may deal with this, or know someone who may. I am not a doctor, and do not claim to be one, but should you see these symptoms, the affected person should seek professional help.

The disorder may begin in adolescence or early adulthood. Like other forms of depression, it occurs more frequently in women than in men. Most people with the "winter blahs" or "cabin fever" do not have SAD.

The cause of SAD is not known, but it is thought to be related to numerous factors, including:

* Ambient light (this one is me, for sure!)
* Body temperature (I am always the opposite of everyone else)
* Hormone regulation (Once again, this is me!)

A rare form occurs in the summer.

Hopefully, you have gotten something out of this. I find that discussing these issues makes me Think about them more, and Suffer from them less (although I don't like to say I Suffer from the depressions; instead I DEAL with them!)

Have a wonderful, unsunny day!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Realization that its working...

The kiddios and I spent Thanksgiving with my mom up in MI. It was a nice holiday (the exception being that I realized I'm allergic to mom's dog, the ONLY dog Ive ever liked in this world).

Of course, kids being kids, there were many opportunities to flex my AYD at Home skills. I mean, when you put 2 adults and 3 kids in a VERY small 2 bedroom apartment, things get really close, really quick.

I realized though, that the AYD works when my mom and I were having a conversation with Q. He was having an issue with Bean and she came out of the room, feelings hurt because he told her "I'm starting to hate you now". So of course, I had to have a conversation with them both.

I explained that first of all, words CAN hurt a person. That I think I understood what Q meant, but I don't think Bean did. There's no secret in our house that everyone really does (down deep) love each other, but that siblings annoy one another. That's kind of part of being a sibling, especially a younger one. The younger sib tests the patience of the older. But the way that the older expresses that annoyance effects the situation. I asked Q if I told him that I was starting to hate him, would his feelings be hurt? He said yes. I asked him if I told him he was getting on my nerves, would his feeling be hurt in the same way; he said nope, that doesn't hurt him, he just knows to back off. Then he got my point.

My mom then explained that in dealing with the kiddios, I talk to them, not at them. We discuss what our issues are, and I ask them for alternatives. I ask for and value their opinions, and listen to them, treating them with respect. She said that I treat them like young people, not little kids.

That was my AHA moment.

Someone else saw what I was trying to do.

I feel like this really is working, and its worth something.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Good days...and bad ones too

Hello there! Lots going on this holiday week, but I didn't want to leave you without a post. I'll be back next week with good newness, especially since I plan on taking another AYD course next week, and you know, with new training comes new insight!

Umm, yeah...
So, a subject that I haven't really hit on very much is this depression that I deal with. Notice, I said deal with, and not suffer from. Though some days are harder than others, and I do a bit of suffering, I don't like to say that. I deal with it on a day by day basis. And at times, it seems like day in, day out, things aren't getting better, but I'm still here, aren't I?

So I STILL have yet to see my therapist (appointment has been rescheduled for next week...and doggit, it just struck me that its during this training I'm thinking of taking...hmmm...) but luckily I have friends who not only have dealt with issues such as depression, but I also just discovered that I have friends who are actually therapists of various kinds as well. See what speaking up will do?

Anyway, I have what I like to call "down days", where I can't even seem to get out of bed. I get up, get my kids out the door and on their way to school, but then I cant seem to motivate myself to do anything else. I mean, this depression hurts, physically. My body is all over the place; I am hardly hungry, I barely sleep and honestly, if I didn't HAVE to, I probably wouldn't bathe. Too much information, I'm sure...but I'm just being honest. I make it a point of being excited to go to work with the girls, so I force myself out of the bed and into the bathroom for a daily hygiene regimen, to set a good example. Yeah, its come to that.

In all actuality, its like that on a daily basis, weekends too. I have to make lots of plans and keep myself busy in order to keep myself from wallowing everyday. That's a good thing, really. As long as I'm up, moving and doing something for someone else, I am happy. Service is what keeps me busy, and it makes my mind work when it doesn't really want to. As I type this, I am checking the time, because I have volunteered to drop of Thanksgiving baskets collected by my church to a senior citizens home.

Rambling...The point of all of this was to give a tip that I was given this weekend.

Since i have returned home from Daddy's funeral in June, I haven't been so motivated (thank the depression) to clean my home a fervently as I had in the past. I have done my best to make sure that the common areas are presentable, but my room is in a constant state of CHAOS. CHAOS meaning Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. When I have people over, they should be able to roam freely in my home (I believe), especially since I have a bathroom in my room, and if the other is in use, mine should be available. Well, let's be honest...the door to my bedroom has been closed to the public for months now, and I do not feel at all good about that. The advice that I got this weekend was to do everything in steps. I can't cure my depression overnight, nor can I wipe away its effects on me. I have to take small steps to get to where I need to me.

So today, I cleaned off my bed and changed the sheets. Sounds easy, but honestly, it wasn't. It took real effort to do it. I wanted to make sure that I put everything away that was piled up on the bed, and then I got to stripping it and putting on brand new sheets...the ones I had bought a couple months ago, but never had the energy to put on. And the energy it took! It took me all of 45 minutes to accomplish my task, and I feel great...tired, but great! (I told you, depression wears on your physical body!) I am leaving to go visit family for the holiday tomorrow and how great will it be to come home to a fresh, cozy bed?

That was step one. Step 2 will be to clean off the top of my dresser, either tonight or tomorrow. See, it may not be a big deal, and may not look like much to everyone else, but I know that it is making a difference. It may take alot longer than some think it should, but it gets done. Looking at the big picture, my entire room, that's overwhelming; I get discouraged and procrastinate and it never gets done. But by taking a small bit and doing it, its not so daunting.

Didn't mean to be so long winded there...

So as you go on your way about this holiday week, I hope that you and yours have a blessed one. Be thankful for what you have, and do not regret what you do not. Take a look at those children in your life, and treasure the time that you have with them as youth. Look at your relationship with them; do you respect them as people (not kids)? Do you talk to them in ways that make them feel less of a person, or are you contributing to their enrichment, and guiding them to make choices that will make their transition to adulthood pleasant? Are you depositing or withdrawing from their emotional banks? Will they be thankful for you being in their lives?

Have a wonderful week, and don't eat too much! Be careful out there on Black Friday as well!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shameless Plug...

This is a shameless plug for help. My organization, Interstages, Inc. (where I use these wonderful AYD techniques) is facing financial hardships, and you can help us out (for free!) by clicking and voting for us.

We also accept conventional donations as well; check out our website at for more information.

Thanks in advance!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Anti-Prevention and Ask MommaYonna, we will talk about prevention programs. I'm sure you know of DARE (anti-drug use), violence prevention programs, suicide prevention, sexual abuse/activity prevention...blah blah blah. I am not here to say that these things are good or bad; shoot, I was able to experience a number of these programs in my youth. You get alot of information out of these, and for some, the scare tactics actually work (...on kids who have been sheltered from these type of events, on a regular basis). But for many of our youth (and when I say Our, I mean my own, as well as the students I teach, who live in more urban areas, in close quarters with many people, and in metropolitan areas, where the rates of domestic crimes are high)these preventative programs just barely gloss over the facts that they see on a daily basis.

There is an assertion out there that 'problem free is not fully prepared', and I agree with this statement. When we try to "fix" our youth, we sell the young people short, and diminish our expectations for their achievement. We can do our best to teach them, and try to prevent high risk behaviors, but even if we achieve in doing so, its not the same as preparing them for the future. "Preparation requires an equal commitment to helping youth understand life's challenges and responsibilities and to teach youth the necessary skills for success."* Just because we are teaching the youth how to stay away and prevent issues from happening, we aren't fully preparing them for adulthood. They aren't going to "make it" in the world, just because they didn't get pregnant, join a crew/gang, or because they didn't use drugs; they learned prevention--not skills, knowledge or personal attributes. Developing the youth towards positive developmental outcomes really is the best strategy for problem prevention. It takes dedicated adults to do this. We have to help them strive for toward more positive goals that promote the skills and motivation they need to adopt and implement healthy lifestyles.

What does that mean?
I try my best to not tell a girl "Don't go out and have sex, you'll get pregnant, and that will be the end of life as you know it". Not only is this negative, but its flat out unlikely. How many teenaged mothers do you know of that still live a teenaged life? Still go to school, still hang with friends, still go on to college or get a job? True, life is different, because they have to come home to more responsibilities than a girl who doesn't have a child, but with some many multi-generational homes, there is most likely someone there who is taking up the slack for the youth. No one want to let the baby suffer, so everyone pitches in, in some way. Instead, I encourage her to think about other things; I ask questions to find out what they are thinking about, which in turn, gets them to discuss what they see, feel and think. I go out of my way to NOT make statements of judgement, because I know that I am an influence in their lives, and my personal feelings and opinions can change the way that they see me, but also their world. I also try not to share too much of my personal life experience in this matter, because that is subconsciously telling them my personals again...feelings and opinions. "Ms. Rayawwwwna didn't have sex at my age because she wasn't ready...I wonder what she thinks of me, because I was. Maybe I shouldn't talk about this with her anymore" would be the thoughts going through my students' mind, and I would lose the trust of a student, something that would hurt me dearly, since the safety and security that I strive to provide may not be readily available within their familial units, and I would have lost them right then and there.

Basically, with prevention programs, the young people are deemed competent and healthy when they do not participate in problem behaviors. This teaches them what not to do, but this does not teach them what they should do.

Yeah. I've found myself being more and more critical of these programs here lately, because my son, Q, has been having alot of these types of programs being introduced in his middle school. Many times, he doesn't know it, but I get the reminder phone calls from school, and emails from teachers, asking for our participation. As a parent, this prompts me to bring things of this nature up in general conversation, as opposed to "You' aren't using drugs are you?", which of course he would deny (even if he were) out of fear of judgement and punishment. Instead, when its brought up in general conversation, he may feel more comfortable asking questions and discussing what he does know. At that time, I do my best to answer factually, and unbiased, no matter how I am feeling about it on the inside. Personal opinions must go out the window, unless he asks, and sometimes, even in that case, I still try to keep it to a minimum. YES, ITS HARD, but he is a youth in development as well!

Okay folks...
I'm getting long winded (as folks tend to do when they feel certain passion over a subject), so I'm going to cut it short here. But I do want to know what you think. Please comment, discuss, ask questions-whatever you feel comfortable doing. Also, should you have a question, or a situation you'd like to present to me, please do so at, and I will do my best to help you out. Now, I am not the end-all/be-all when it comes to youth development (I'm still learning), but maybe I can offer a suggestion or some insight that will help you out. Then again, maybe I will end up learning from you. Let's find out together, eh?

*Advancing Youth Development: A Curriculum for Training Youth Workers, Handout 1-C, Key Youth Development Concepts and Assertions

Thursday, November 12, 2009

the turnaround

Hey there readers...this week has been a whirl-wind!

First things first, thanks for the well wishings that I got. I had fully recovered, and am chock full of the daily recommended amount of blood again, so I am all ready to go!

On the home front...things are...different. Report cards came out this week, and school pictures were sent home at the same time. Its funny...when I look at the pictures of my kiddios, I can see everything that is going on in their live, right on their faces.

Q has this "I'm too cool to smile, because thats just not what 8th grade boys do...but momma said she was paying good money for these pictures, so I'd better not look mean" look on his face. He also shows me that there are lots of things on his mind...gotta keep his grades up, or the drum lessons will become shorter; dealing with girls; trying to keep up with homework; and church things: his best friends go to church with us, and do things one way, while the neighborhood kids he goes to school with do things another way. He feels like he has 2 sets of friends, and being the same person in front of both groups isn't as easy as he thought it would be.

J brought his pictures home, and his face looks like "I want to smile...and I'm gonna...but wait! I'm not ready...doggit, you caught me". J is having some issues right now. What I didn't realize in my own grief is that J (who is named after my daddy) has been hit hard by his death as well. Not only are J and I very close, and he sees what I'm going through, but being a namesake hasn't made things easier for him. His grades are effected. Being a child who deals with emotional abuse issues, he takes EVERYTHING alot harder than his siblings. His grades are showing this as well. He does great on his tests, and does his homework, but gets lazy at the point where he has to hand it in. He is also easily distracted in class. I told him today to let his teacher know that I need to work on an IEP (Individual Education Plan) with her, because I am thinking that he may need psychological help in school. I already sees a counselor, and is in the 'Confidence Club' (a group of students who are shy or have esteem issues, working with one of the school counselors), but he may need more than that. I already knew what his grades were before the report cards came home (thanks to online grade reporting), so I knew what to expect. However, he was crushed when he got his grades. He was reluctant to show me, because he thought he was going to get in trouble, but since I knew a couple of weeks ago, I had already thought about what to do, and without him realizing it, we have already been dealing with it. But those grades! The only thing that he has to gauge himself with...he saw them, and immediately decided that he was stupid. I have to explain to him constantly that he is not stupid, he is not a dummy, but maybe the way he's learning isn't the style that's best for him. I explained that there are 9 different learning styles, and most teachers really only use 3 or 4 of them. I told him that I will help him to find his learning style, and that we will work together to bring those grades up...together.

Bean's pictures showed me exactly what I already knew about her. "I love this, this is cool, I am great and everything is well with the world". Her smile is so easy, and third grade life couldn't be better. Her only real issues in life are why we can't go out and buy her teacher a huge birthday present, and dealing with her brothers at home. However, last night, she told me she felt so bad, she wanted to run away. I asked her why, she said "because I keep doing wrong things". She said this after I reminded her about deodorant. (Yes...its gotta be in the hormones in the baby has been wearing deodorant since she was 5!) Every night, after showers, I ask my kids the 3 questions...Did you brush your teeth? Did you put on deodorant? Did you take your medicine? She had forgotten one of those, and I asked her to go and do it. Earlier in the day, she had forgotten to do something else. To me, its no big deal, but I have to remember, I'm not 8. To her, anytime mom has to tell her to do something that she should have already done, its a big deal, and 'maybe I'm getting in trouble'. I tried to break it down to her as much as I could, explaining that everyone makes mistakes before they get really good at something, they even forget a bunch of times before something becomes a habit. We laid together, quietly talking for a few minutes, as I let her know that messing up is okay and that I would be very sad if she ran away. My life wouldn't be the same, and who would help me when the brothers ganged up on me? Who would sing the girl songs with me, and who would I practice dancing with?

I swear, being a momma shows me myself. I thought this morning that a few months ago, all yesterdays conversations would have gone so differently...but thinking about youth development has really changed me. I also think about how my being an adult versus them being children has got to feel on their part, and that I don't want to disrespect them as people. Young people, but people nonetheless.

When was the last time you changed a conversation you were going to have with a child out of respect for them? Have you ever punished, or 'snapped' on a child because its 'what your're supposed to do'? Did this happen to you as a child, and if so, how has it effected your adulthood?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Time Out!

So...I am taking a brief hiatus here...yeah, I know I just got started, but I need this downtime.

I had some major dental work done this past Thursday (the day after the field trip), and everything went as planned. But then on Saturday, the temporary crown the dental surgeon put on me came out. No biggie. I was fine.

Then at about 2:30 in the morning, I woke up to a mouth full of blood.

I don't wanna get into graphic details, but after 2 hospitals and almost 8 hours of bleeding nonstop, I was finally taken care of and sent home.

So, because I lost so much blood, I have been put on bed rest, and cannot return to work until Thursday, to give my body a chance to recoup that blood loss.

Here I sit, bored out of my mind. But hey, I finished knitting that scarf I had been working on since forever.

See you all when I get back to work, and the AYD starts up. Ooh, also, I have an appointment with my new therapist, and will let you know how that goes. Should be interesting, since this is my first time meeting with anyone since Daddy passed.

Thanks for being patient with me, folks. I do appreciate you. Please pray for my healing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Woo! Training out the window!

WOOSAH even!

Today we took the students on a field the way, if you're in the DC area, the Spy Museum is free on the last Wednesday of every month.

Anyway, a field trip is always an interesting experience, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always unpredictable. We met the students outside of their school to make it easier for us to get there, since the bus stop is just across the street from school. We always provide them with a snack when program begins for the day, so I had the snack bag and was ready. I made sure they signed into program, gave them a snack, told them to make sure they stayed near us, do not throw your wrappers on the ground, etc. Of course, we were right where all of the other students could come and heckle and haggle, including a few former students of our program. One of them decided she wanted to cuss up a storm in front of us, and slap some of our students, since she is no longer in our program and technically, we can't do anything to her. Then she commences stealing my favorite pen (which we used at sign in...the students know its my favorite pen, and have a fit when I don't know who has it)...I ask "who has my purple pen, who has my purple pen?"...Former student speaks up about a minute later..."________ has it", and I look over and see _____picking it up off the ground to give to me. I ask her if she had had the pen all along, she tells me no, and I told her I believed her. _____is the quiet and shy type, and isn't one to throw a pen on the ground, much less keep the pen. Ugh. Anyway, former student was obviously trying to find some attention from the staff, since she wasn't getting it from the students (except the ones she slapped...I had to go calm down one of my girls who went after her). Moving on.

We take the bus downtown, and for the most part, that was nice, easy, uneventful, and complaint free. Just the way I like things.

We get off the bus and have to walk from 7th and Pennsylvania to 9th and H...not a far walk at all...but the complaints begin. "I didn't know we would be walking forever. I wanna stop at Starbucks, why can't we stop at Starbucks? (Do YOU have Starbucks money?) Why do we always take field trips to museums? Why can't yall ever take us to Kings Dominion?" After about...5 to 10 minutes of this, I asked aloud "Does anyone plan to continue complaining? I'd like to know right now who I need to tune out for the rest of the day". I mean REALLY. This is a FREE program. We feed you. We pay your bus fare. We make sure you get into these things. We make sure we have permission slips. We provide everything you need. You are not required to do anything but get your permission slip signed, bring it back, show up on time and participate. How hard is that?

To certain 6th, 7th and 8th graders, it seems to be the end of the world.

We get to the spy museum, and realize that 95.5 WPGC is there for the day, so of course, the girls get excited. They listen to this radio station, and know the DJ who is making the appearance. They take pictures, and are given goodie bags full of candy.

We then begin making our way through the museum. We let them know that it is now 4:10, we need to meet in the gift shop at 5. True, we don't have alot of time (now that your complaining behinds have taken 15 minutes to walk what should have been 5 minutes), so lets make the best of the time we do have. And for the most part, they did enjoy what they saw. At 5, we congregated in the gift shop, and people were looking around. We were then ushered into the cafe, where WPGC bought the girls (doggit, not the staff) lunches. A mini turkey sandwich, a cookie and some chips, pre-packaged, with a bottle of water to go with.


They complained halfway down the street. Some of them didn't get a water bottle, and were complaining that they were thirsty (they were so busy complaining, that they didn't see the table with the waters on it).

Then, they asked "Miz Rayawwwwna, wha's wrong witchu?"

"I cannot believe how yall just acted in there. I am embarrassed and cannot believe how ingrateful you all just showed yourselves to be. Just for future reference, if you all do not like the kinds of trips we go on, or the services we provide, you don't have to come or participate."

Yeah. I said it. I let loose my personal feelings on them. I even told one girl that if my kids would have acted like that, they would have gotten a public beating.

That was me. At about 5:30 this afternoon.

I am not at all proud of my attitude with them. And when I see them again on Monday (we dont have program tomorrow or Friday) I will have to give a public apology, for being upset and taking it out on them.

Except for a few that I truly was tuning out (for constant complaining) the bus ride back to the recreation center was pleasant. But my attitude had not changed.

I never said I was perfect. I am human. I try to do my best to do what is well and good, and what is expected of a person in my position, but I foul up just like the next person. Had we have been in our classroom, I would have been able to "take a moment" (excusing myself from the classroom to get my feelings together) but in this case, I could not. I took it out on them instead.

I am not infallible. I am a work in progress...I need a hard hat and caution tape. Bear with me, please.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

For some clarification...

I just realized that my readers are not stupid, but they may not understand the terms I'm here is a brief tutorial so you can understand where I'm comin' from.

AYD, or Advanced Youth Development/Developer
: That's me. This is what I do by trade. I didn't realize it, but its my dream job. The National Department of Labor is JUST NOW starting to recognize Youth Development as a career path here in America.

Youth Development
: (The What)A process by which ALL young people seek ways to meet thei basic physical and social needs and to build knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in adolescence and adulthood. (The How) An approach to working with young people that defines goals/outcomes based on capacities, strengths and developmental needs of youth.

: all those behaviors and attitudes which flow fromt he assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people in myriad ways without their agreement. (note: this is me. Has been; its how I was raised. Most of you may agree.)

Common statements from adultists include
: "When are you going to grow up?", "You're being childish", "What do you know, you haven't experienced anything!"

Adultists also include those who "just don't do (or do well with) kids", those who give up on youth because "they just don't (want to) act right", or "don't deserve help because they don't help themselves".

So now that we have that established, do me a favor, and participate in the poll I have here to the right of my page. Be honest please (its anonymous); I'd really like to know how aware people are. I will admit that I have been an active adultist for years now, but am learning my way out of it. It was how I wad treated as a child/youth, it was how I was taught ("Children should be seen, not heard"), and its what I used on my own children...still do in alot of instances. But as I said, I am LEARNING my way out of it.

I want to thank You for being willing to take this journey with me.

Thanks to The National Training Institute for Community Youth Work for the materials; DC Trust and DC Best for the AYD training; Interstages, Inc. for sponsoring my training; Thandor and Syreeta of DC trust for training me; Q, J, and Bean for allowing me to use it at home, and my 18 babies for giving me practice everyday.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Un-Punishments

This week, I have been dealing with E and his school issues. He settled the thing with the girl already, and had a doctor's appointment on Friday, so of course, there were no advancements on that front. My boy...he got his H1N1 shot, and smiled through it. I even took a picture.

Anyway, back to the point...

I got an email from one of his teachers. Brother-man is doing great on his tests...scores couldn't be more perfect. However, he isn't doing (or turning in, one of those) classwork and homework. He's skating by with great grades because his assessments make up so much of his them...but it IS NOT okay (with momma) that you're being lazy and not doing the side dishes, because the meat and potatoes have already been taken care of.

So...I decided to take away what he loves most. Grounded him from the Wii, and the computer (unless he has to do homework...oh yeah...he doesn't DO that). I also suspended his private drum lessons that he loves so much.

But then I had to realize...the drum lessons are his enrichment. taking away his artistic release is exactly the opposite of what I do for a living. I would be putting him in the same position I'm trying to take my students out of. So...drum lessons were given back.

I talked to the drum instructor, because we have alot of the same views on things, and found out what he thought. He thinks that I need to try to work on the character flaw in him, and in this case, its laziness. So I ask the boy about this, and its true. So I ask him what I can do to help him out...what can I do to help motivate him. He says that the things he looks forward to usually motivate him. So we work out a few 'motivational spurs' that we both agree on. We're gonna try these for a few days, to find out if they work. If he comes home and gets his homework done, he can go outside and hang with his friends (something that was taken away previously), and he can read those flippin' manga books that I said weren't proper reading material for his reading logs (I still believe that...but these are his release, and I am secretly happy he has taken an interest in reading so much that he was hurt to lose this privilege). If we can get through the week with all homework done and turned in, then he will get his Wii and computer privileges back. Let's see how this goes.

Now, in AYD terms, this is giving the child safety and structure, but its also creating an awareness of self worth. Safety and structure because he knows exactly what he is to do afterschool everyday, and it creates a routine, which is what kids need to be comfortable. Also, self worth, because he was able to help me make this decision, and understands that I do trust him, until he gives me a reason not to. He feels like he really made the decision, and therefore, invests himself into the outcome. What we are looking for is a positive outcome, and our full intention is to work until we get one. My job in this case is to be supportive, and guide him. If he falters, I will be there to try to get him back on track, but I must let him do this on his own. This is HIS learning moment, I am just along for the ride.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Double duty

So today, I was challenged to use my AYD training in my home life.

woo. hard work.

So I get to work today, and am setting up my classroom, preparing for the girls to come in, when I get a call from Q's guidance counselor. She explains that she has my 8th grader in her office. There was a girl that he's been bothering for about a week; pulling her hair, throwing things at her, and finally hitting her in the face. I instantly thought "This boy likes her...sheesh"...anyway, the counselor asked him why he did it, and he says "I was just irritating her" (and then I KNEW for a fact that he likes her).

The counselor explains that the girl hasn't said anything to anyone until today, because he hit her in the she came crying to the counselor. Counselor calls Q out of class, describes the details the girl gave her, and does not deny one bit of it. She then calls me.

Explains the situation to me...and of course, I am already slightly heated that I got this phone call, at work, no less. I ask her repeatedly "Is he going to be disciplined?", and she keeps saying that the administration doesn't know about this (umm...why not? Aren't you a counselor? Isn't that administration?) She felt like she should call me on it before all else. So I let her know Yes, I will speak to him on the matter, but should this girl go home and tell her parents, my son will be disciplined in school. Don't get me wrong, I full well believe that he SHOULD be disciplined. He has no right to harass this child like this, like her or not. I ask the counselor to let him know that he should come straight home today, missing his beloved drum lesson, and I will speak to him then.

My co-workers overheard the call, and saw my reaction. The mom in me was upset, and felt one way. So they asked the AYD trained youth development worker to think about what to do. COME ON, MAN! I didn't feel like using AYD! This is my child!

yeah. HELLO!

Earth to Yonna. My kids are the reason why I know AYD works. After my first day of training, I began using it at home. They proved to me what the big deal was. I will admit, I didn't want to hear the harsh dose of reality they were trying to open my eyes to...I wanted to be the upset mom. I had my chance.

And then I taught my program. All of this went out the window for a few hours.

So I came home, and spoke to my son. I explained that yes, I am disappointed, but no, I'm not mad. He would not be punished (by me at least...if the school does anything I won't fight it). I explained that I know that he 'likes' her (and he grinned in embarrassment), but now that he is in middle school, this elementary routine is not the way to go about it. We have talked about him respecting women and girls, but maybe he thinks that only applies to his mother and sister. We discussed other ways to get a girls attention, how to let her know that you 'like' her without pulling hair, throwing things, or other things that his sister's 3rd grade peers are doing.

What he really needed was someone to let him know they understand what its like, and show him the right way to go about doing it. He has come to the decision that it may be too late with this girl, that he may never get on her good side again, but he wants to write her an apology card. I agreed, this may be a good thing to do, and I will help him.

Its funny how much this AYD really does leak into my home life. It has completely changed the way I think about kids, as well as myself. I will admit that I have been raised to be an adultist, but I am learning my way out of it as well. Its a long road, but I am working toward the end of it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Not only a teacher...

So...when people ask me what I do, I have to admit...I have a hard time explaining it to them. Yes, I teach. But no, I didn't go to school to be a teacher. Well...not in the sense that other 'teachers' did. I never took curriculum, I'm not certified and have never taken any state administered exam. I cannot and do not work for any school board/administration/school system. I did, however, go to school to teach children. Middle and high schoolers, in particular.

I DO teach my students...don't get me wrong. They have learned more about theatre and stage design within the past 7 months than they ever thought they would want to. However, I am more satisfied with the fact that I teach them that I care. Ms. Rayona (or as they say it, Mizz Rayawwwwna...that Souf-eas' DC accent makes a difference!) actually cares about them. I ask them "Hey girl, how you be?" (excuse the language, while it isn't proper, it is perfect to their dialect), and I stand and wait for the response. Those who choose to, converse with me, until the next friend comes in with something else to keep their minds on. Those who decide not to know that I am here, and will be when they decide to open up.

The thing these students...girls...want most from us is attention. Period. That is what they seek at this age. Whether it be in good ways or not, they are all seeking to have their needs met. And in most cases, my students are not getting this at home, and most definitely not at school. So, it is my job to give it to them, even if it is only for 2 minutes a day. I have to remind myself to greet them each by name, and speak to them about something personal. "Ooh girl, those earrings are too cute...when you gon' let me borrow 'em?" "So...I see you smiling...did you see your boo today?" Whatever it may be, I need to meet this need for this specific child, otherwise, she is going to slip through the cracks, and will seek her attention somewhere else, more than likely, in a not so positive place.

Sometimes, with only 3 staff members and 18 students, they do slip through, and we don't get a chance to greet them all. We end up paying for it later though, when they decide to act out. They choose to do whatever it is that is going to get our attention, as well as everyone else in the classroom. True, it may get them sent out of the room, but isn't that what they want? We tell them to go 'take a moment', which means 'go out into the hallway, calm down for a few, and I will be out there to speak to you shortly'. Of course, the rest of their peers see this, and are watching intently to see what will happen...trying to find out what buttons can be pushed, how far the staff will go before getting upset, etc. Anyway, out in the hallway, we ask them why they think they were sent out, what did they do wrong if anything, and how can the problem be solved in the future.

This one on one time is what they crave, no matter how much eye rolling they do, or how much attitude they give. I am learning to be sensitive to this, no matter how disrespected I felt (the reason I send students out, mostly). I let them know that I will not and cannot stand to be disrespected, especially when I go out of my way to treat everyone fairly, and give them respect. I let them know that I appreciate them as a person, I think they are important, and I know they had a bad moment/day/time; that I can forgive, and that we can move forward. This is what they need to hear, and that is what I am here to let them know. If they are comfortable, I offer a hug to honestly show that I am harboring no hard feelings...and usually a closer connection is born from there.

So I wear many hats. Not only am I a teacher, but truly a nurturer, an attention giver, a forgiver and a mentor. I am a youth development worker, plain and simple.

Now...if I can remember that as much as they do.

Well, hello you!

Hey there!

So, I decided that I missed the blogging world, and since I didn't wanna traipse back over to the world of DramaSpace, I chose to begin life again here. And yay for you finding me!

I am...the mother of 3 beautiful and challenging Kiddios...Q, the 13 year old 8th grader who's barely taller than me, but still quite respectful (for the time being); J, 11 and insecure, a 6th grader who deals with alot of issues internally; and Bean, the 8 year old wonder, who is in 3rd grade, and is the worlds greatest social butterfly.

I also work for a non-profit org her in the DC Metro region, where I teach drama/stage design/basic life skills to 6th, 7th and 8th grade girls in a low income area, who go to a school that really should be shut down. Not only because of the structure of the building, but because of the structure of their education. They are just barely making the cut, but its not their fault. They dont understand this, because it is all they know. Honestly, this is my dream job, and while it is challenging, I couldn't be happier with what I do.

Also, in my personal life, I am learning to deal with depression. I have had alot of huge changes within my life this past year, from graduating college and moving far away, to losing my beloved father this past June.

So...put all of that together, and you get me. Yonna. A momma, AYD (advanced youth development) worker, and overall crazy lady. This should be fun, seeing how the 3 cross paths (as they do, on the daily, BELIEVE ME!) Glad to see that you're willing to take the ride with me!